"Promise you'll never leave me."
It's a question that's probably been asked a million times. I know I've asked it. And it has been asked of me. In sweet moments of love we may have made that promise. We may have held the hand of our child, or a friend, or a lover and whispered back "never!" But even as the words are coming out of our mouths we know it's a promise we can't keep.
As she blew out those candles I couldn’t help but think about the countless nights and long days we spent wishing, waiting, praying for her to finally come home. Just a few years ago we were still separated by 9,000 miles and even more miles of red tape keeping us from being a family united.
The tradition of the arrow started when my first born daughters graduated from High School and continued through this weekend when my youngest walked across the stage to receive his diploma.
Letting go is hard for parents. For our children's whole lives it's our responsibility to protect them, guide them, and nurture them. And then, just like that, they're grown and moving into a dorm room or an apartment and we're just supposed to let them fly. That transition can be hard, on kids, and especially on parents.
I’ve always been an expert at foreboding joy. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Seeing the glass as half empty. Cynicism. When you live from a place of fear it makes it hard to trust people. Makes it hard to trust God too.
Thankfully God is patient and has gently pursued my heart year after year with big and small reminders that He always has been, and always will be, faithful.
"You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," was a phrase I heard often growing up. It set the tone for how I would approach life; if you help me, I'll help you. It was meant to encourage us to do things for others that they couldn't do for themselves, but there were strings attached. An expectation of reciprocation. And a way out of future help if the favor wasn't returned.
Jones street is a breath-taking neighborhood filled beautiful homes, but none of those structures compare to the beauty of the canopy created by tress that have lines those streets for decades. I can imagine that even on the hottest July day, that canopy provides protection from the worst of a Savannah summer. I keep thinking that’s exactly how God wants me to live.
I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I never have been, but working in a flower shop solidified my lack of love for the day. I tend to push back against things that are cheesy or contrived, and Valentine’s Day has always felt that way to me.
We sat sipping our coffees and checking our smart phones, a sprinkling of conversation here and there. I was afraid I was going to be late, as I snuck into the back row right as Sunday school got started. For the next hour a few dozen of us ranging in age from late teens to well past retirement talked about the attributes of God’s goodness. We celebrated the God of love and mercy and grace and wrestled openly with the idea of God’s justice and righteousness and holiness.
We asked questions. How do you help your child understand that God is still good when they go to school with kids that don’t have enough to eat? How to you reconcile that God is love with the Old Testament stories of hardened hearts and decimated armies. How do you trust in God’s mercy when He allows good people to die early deaths?
I used to be terrified of my heart. My head and I were great friends. I could research and learn and file facts away and lean on them when I didn’t know what to do or think or say. But my heart… my heart was deep water that I was scared to dive into.
The question “what do you think” was one I welcomed. I could tell you what I thought about a million things. But “what do you feel?” that was a completely different story. I didn’t know what I felt, and even if I figured out what I felt I didn’t understand why I felt what I was feeling, much less what do to with those feelings.
Over Spring Break we dog sat for some friends of ours. They have a black lab that is less than a year old and adorable. The last day they were with us my son put him in his kennel but didn’t close the door. The silly dog laid in that cage for a good 10 minutes whining because he wanted out so bad. We kept telling him, and showing him, the door was open, but for some reason he just couldn’t see his way to freedom.
Sounds like me sometimes. Feeling trapped. Asking God for rescue. Completely missing the way of escape He’s provide. I lived like that for years. I’ll even confess, sometimes I was perfectly aware of the open door, but the comfort of my cage overruled the intrigue of the unknown on the other side of the door.