Arms full of teenaged girls, every afternoon. I mean, I have their hair in my mouth. Those long, honeyed strands fly in my face whenever my daughters curl their lithe bodies into me, the one pressing her cheek into my lap, the other settling her ear on my shoulder, reaching for my hand with long, bronzed fingers. I have two daughters, I’m thinking. Me. I know it’s crazy, but the fact that God took parts of Kevin and me and crafted these beautiful creatures deep in the pit of me still leaves me awe-shattered. I was there, and yet, sitting here with my arms full-to-overflowing with daughter astonishes me. So yea, I’m still stunned by grace.
We drink coffee in steamy sips, and then they rearrange, melting back into me. Zoe’s hip bone juts into my side, and I’m not sure where my fingers end and Riley’s begin, and still it seems like they can’t get close enough. We watch our favorite turn that hole-in-the-wall into something beautiful television show; it’s our deep breath before launching into homework and chores and “what’re we having for dinner?” They press their hands against my arms, my legs, my cheeks, often impatiently pausing, sentences dangling from their tongues, their comments staggered like pebbles in a rushing stream. I realize, again with a certain immeasurable awe, that they’ve saved these words for me. And I think, this is what’s important.
I confess that as a disciplined, task-oriented soul, I often feel that life amounts to a protracted treasure hunt involving both endless sifting through enormous amounts of distracting, inconsequential material and the discovery (re-discovery and re-re-discovery) of the true definition of value. God and I have an ongoing dialogue about what is actually important. Again and again, He nudges me profoundly. This. Just this.
Sitting here this afternoon, hidden beneath my girls, I realize that I have discovered treasure someplace my doing heart would scarcely imagine looking, because in this particular hour we will accomplish next to nothing. After all, I can hardly move, and as it is, I feel as though I need one hand to hold my coffee cup and another two to keep on touching my daughters, to feel their warmth and the rise and fall of their chests as they breathe. It seems that they need these moments more desperately than any others I offer them, that this being with me they protect more than all the hours of time I spend taking care of them, more than all the things I open up my hands to give them. It’s astonishing to me, but it’s so. More than my provision, my girls desire my presence.
A few weeks ago now, a friend said something I have not since forgotten, something that God just left marinating with me for a while. The thing is, do we value God’s presence as much as we value His provision for us? I remember tossing the question around in my mind and then letting it settle. I think maybe Christians living in a post-Christian culture have lost at least some measure of awe over God’s with-us-ness, me included. If given the opportunity, I will tell you about God’s grace quite readily by describing what He’s done for me, but I’ve only very recently become the kind of daughter who prizes an hour pressed up against my God, melted right into Him, just being, more still than the list of all He does for me every day. I’ve only recently become the kind of daughter who stores up words just for Him, words that come rushing out unfiltered.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. ~Matthew 13:44
For a long time, I’d have given you some big definitions of that word kingdom, definitions that might have made you scratch your head, and certainly would’ve left you tired. But most recently I’ve come to understand that the kingdom, in all it’s jaw-dropping, grace-soaked, glinting glory, is God with us. It’s me–me–able to press my ear up against His Almighty shoulder; me able to push my body into Him until, if He were here again in flesh and blood, He’d have my hair in His mouth. It’s me all grace-able to spend time just with Him, when Adam and Eve were once exiled from the Garden and the consecrated Israelites couldn’t even approach the mountain without dying. It’s me knowing one day I’ll live finally close enough to look on His face. Someone smarter than I am once said that hell is the absolute absence of God; and heaven is wholly with Him.
He’s always with me, and that’s what’s most important, the kind of I’ll-die-to-make-it-happen important that planted Jesus as a seed in the cavern of a woman.
…and they will call him Immanuel (which means, “God with us.”). ~Matthew 1:23