I like to walk in the mornings, by myself, but on this Saturday, Brian wanted to sleep in and Anne had spent the previous night at her Granny and Papa’s house. Faced with the prospect of trying to keep these two loud mouths quiet all morning, I tucked a few pieces of banana bread, a bowl of blueberries, a water bottle, and my camera into a bag, strapped them all into the minivan, and drove to the lake. Shawn came, too. Of course.
I worry sometimes about how I’m passing this whole life-in-Christ, God, and faith thing down. I worry about whether I’m doing enough and then I worry about whether I’m doing too much. I don’t like competitions and scores and games for Jesus stuff. I don’t like formulas and gold stars. I worry about turning the Bible into a children’s story book, about helping the tinies to engage with Scripture and wrestle and ask questions, and then I can’t bring myself to read about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, Issac, on the mountain, no part of me could ever understand that obedience, I admit, I’d probably go to hell before I’d raise a hand to hurt my child, I don’t understand it at all. Types and forecasts and shadows be damned, I couldn’t have done it and so I don’t read about it to my tinies, it’s too horrible, and all the old glorious battles just sound like genocide to me, now, and my heart is heavy for the inhabitants of the walls of Jericho, then I’m wondering if I’m sheltering them from God, he’s not safe, but he is good, and there isn’t a flannelgraph for this.
We read a lot of the Gospels instead. And we sing, we sing and we sing, Scripture songs, from that Seeds Family Worship, and I hope I’m not making anything trite, but I love to hear them singing Bible verses, and the words get down into my own blood stream, too, when I’m making supper, I sing these songs now, under my breath and skin. I pray, and we pray, and I point them to prayer. When I get hurt, they run to lay their small hands on my skin, just the way that I pray for them, they pray for Jesus to make me all better, and sometimes, even if I’m not better, I smile and say that I am, I don’t want to wound their beautiful faith, I want to protect their whole-hearted trust for just a while longer.
I don’t know what I’m doing here, and I feel sometimes like I get a lot of stuff right, and a few things wrong, and a few more spectacularly wrong, and really that sounds like most of my life so far.
I’m pretty sure that I need to be the person now that I want them to be someday, and so if I want them to care about justice and mercy and compassion, then I have to live it out. And if I want them to be fearless and bold and courageous, well, guess what? And if I want them to pray, I must pray, and if I want them to know God as love and Abba, and I want them to know that He is very fond of each of them, and I want them to forgive and offer grace and second chances and love tougher, well, then, here we go, I’m about to live a better truth with my life.
It’s caught, not taught, someone told me, and I believe that to my core, even as it intimidates. I believe that God is enough, for me, and for them, and so I am learning to relax, unclench my hands, no death grips of control are required to teach and live a life of grace. When I start to notice half-moons imprinted in the palm of my soul-hands, from clenching tight to figuring it out, over-analysing, and forcing it forward, a death march of checklists to mark off with a red pen and pressure and expectations and guilt and shoulda-woulda-coulda, I have learned to go for a walk, to play, to pray through the days, to make a cup of coffee and just sit, for a while, to watch the trees.
And someday, when they are lined up on a therapist’s couch going over their childhoods, I hope they’ll be given the grace to remember these mornings.
I hope they’ll remember that we walked in the mornings, how homemade banana bread tasted outside, how we played at the empty playgrounds while every other kid in town was still in pajamas or watching cartoons or sleeping in, and how we had the whole place to ourselves. How we took an hour and a half to walk one time around a lake that should take only 25 minutes, about how we stood on the bridge, and watched the moon fade into the coming day over the blue lake water in this western city in the country, how we ate blueberries they picked with their own hands, and we felt the wonder of it all, all three of us, quiet, and watching a ghost moon, together, and it felt like prayer, and a cathedral, and communion, and a gift, and kingdom come. And then we went home.