I have officially become her. My mother. The one who talked to strangers in the grocery store line about things that were way too intimate and transparent for the general public. She used to talk about herself and others would open up to her. Random strangers would share their woes.
“Who are you?” I would think. “Must you talk to every tomato bearing elder, or toddler slinging mum you meet?” I tapped my foot impatiently as if just by her conversing with another human, the grocery lines would come to to a stop like some endless slow moving film. I rolled my eyes at the need to share her story, or the safe portions of her story, while we stood waiting to hear “May I help who’s next?”
Now I stand in grocery lines and look at the person waiting in front of me. The art of sharing my story was birthed by a women who was trapped inside the painful memories of a childhood that formed stories built upon cynicism. Though I could share in the same cynicism from my own childhood (*yawn* who doesn’t have wounds – my childhood was far better than hers), now I gaze at the person in front of me because I am genuinely interested in her story.
My story can wait. There may be a divine narrative needing to be encouraged in the stress lines of the face peering back at me. Some much needed mama encouragement as we walk together, image bearers trying to find the place that fills empty, aching, arms.
The reflection I see in the mirror, though it is different from my mums, stems from the same place of origin. Not just familial, but humanity’s. She has passed on to eternity and I have replaced her. I am now her. Yet, fully me. A snowflake with a similar line here or there. I look like her. Sometimes I act like her. I still occasionally roll my ‘R’s with a remnant of Irish brogue. I am surprised to hear her laughter and realize it’s me. I remember details about her when she was my age. Details that seemed so old to a teenager with a lifetime to be lived. Now I look in shock at myself. I am at her place in life. I am her age. This can’t be me. I didn’t even see it coming.
When did I fall in this hole? When did I become my mother, and my daughter become me? When were my eight toddling wee babes replaced by twelve toddling to teen grandchildren? A family was my lifelong dream. It was all I ever wanted. Farm life. Animals. Family. Homebirth. Babies at my breast. The smell of freshly baked cookies and bread rising. I lived it to the fullest all the while finding the sacred in the mundane.
I have lived my dreams.
Now, like Beth in Little Women I wonder why “everyone has to go away.”
But… “I can be brave like you.”
We all age. We all gain wisdom (hopefully). We learn that other people have stories, and if we are careful, if we have developed empathy, if we have learned to let go of controlling conversations, outcomes, or our own agenda’s – we can hear the divine narrative written on the pages of other image bearers.
My story is completely unique from anyone else’s. Everyone else’s is completely unique from mine. We run into trouble when we try to jump in with the, “I understand what that is like, I…” comments. No, you don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what it’s like for you either. We are all snowflakes, and snowflakes can’t be imitated. One of a kind.
We aren’t comfortable in the silences. We feel threatened by stories. If I tell my story and rip open the flesh, separate the ribs, and expose my heart, it makes you feel insecure in the divine narrative woven throughout your own story. You don’t like the blood and guts. You want tidy, non-offensive, unchanging, and fully clothed. Beautiful. Serene.
My whole life was centered around raising my babies. I home-schooled, they married and lived nearby so that even the grand-kids became part of my day. Friends lived with us, stragglers came on weekends. It was a full house.
One day, all of that changed. I thought I would be the old lady who had tea with my daughters while I helped them to can the abundance from their gardens. They would borrow books from my extensive home-school library and pick from my home-school career brain. The library has been mostly given away to the parents now carrying on the home-school legacy. Only one has a garden.
The rabbit hole is full of twists and bends. I was blinded to what was ahead.
They had a divine narrative being spoken into their lives too and we can’t always predict the story line. It is their story line. It’s God narrative for them.
Yet, I find a space to cuddle in white fur. I have always loved dogs, but they made space for nursing babies and became “Nana” to my wee ones. Now I find myself developing the kind of companionship I had with fur before I knew the love of a child at my breast. I have become one of those people. I have more pictures of my dog on my phone than my grand-kids. I text them to Dave and we laugh over becoming “those people.”
Dog’s love is as reckless as God’s in a creation not creator form. Our new little doggie girl was abused before she came to us via a rescue group as a “foster.” Slated to be euthanized, Big Fluffy rescued her and she landed with us. She would cringe if we reached too quickly towards her. She blinked her eyes waiting to be hit anytime our hand came near. My heart melted as her tail continued to wag, despite the obvious past inhumane treatment. We “fostered” her with no intent of adopting her, but the day someone was interested, Dave closed the deal and she became ours.
I imagine Jesus must feel like that as he reaches for us at times. We wince and back away from Him, told the lies about a God who is more interested in our mistakes than our redemption.
Anyone who has experienced abuse and neglect will tell you that they remember forever when they were delivered from it. Maybe it was a day, maybe it was a season – the timing is different for everyone. There is a then and now. In Christ – there is a then and now narrative that plays out in all of our lives. Our little Daisy (who we call Piggy) is living out a then and now narrative in her little life. We see it as our little while love ball blossoms into our protector, keeping us from all harm. She shows her gratitude for being saved in how she loves.
She has her own redemption story – from the brokenness of man’s irresponsible and unkind folly, into redemptive life. We are the caretakers of God’s creation. Dominion means care, not abuse.
My Masters of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, has a concentration in “children at risk.” One big rabbit trail in my living intentionally dreams. It’s one big rabbit trail that I travel completely alone. No kids, no husband, no partners. Just me on the road down the Divine Academia Lane. Piggy sits faithfully next to me as I write papers and read endless amounts of books. I am completely engrossed and completely alive.
My prayer is that the knowledge I gain will better the lives of little image bearers and their moms – that I can make a difference. But I really hope to expand my own depth so I will see more of Christ and less of my mother when I look in the mirror. Less of me. I witness a broken world and a church that often is more concerned with self-preservation than laying down their lives.
I have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. It’s more like Jesus.
From babies, to strangers – maternal healthcare, children, infants, orphans, refugees, broken, bleeding… The world needs the love of God. They need to see the Jesus that lived. The Jesus that went about doing good and healing (and rescuing) all that were oppressed of the devil. Not the one that promises cars, money, mansions, and a perfect life if you have enough faith and “declare it.” Not the one who turns a blind eye of fear to the plight of refugees, orphans, widows, the marginalized, or people from other religions.
The Jesus who rescues them and who died that they may live. That’s the Jesus I wanna live like.
Jesus declares he is the way the truth and the life. He declares only Himself. He declares the Kingdom of God is at hand in Emmanuel.
Jesus says, “Hey, follow me.” I have something really perfect written just for you. You are part and parcel of this divine narrative. You may not always like where I have to go. Sometimes it may even hurt a bit. There will be rabbit trails and sometime you may get lost. But don’t worry, I will never, ever lose sight of you, even if you fall down the rabbit hole. The only drink that will make you smaller is the one that makes me increase. It’s my magic potion of living water. Drink it with joy and it will reveal the divine narrative that I have written just for you.
I have to the drink the potion. It’s time to grow up and leave home.