By the time I reached the car, rain drops had already began their assault. I quickly started the car, opened my phone to detect GPS’ best route home, and set out down the block. My weather app struggled to pull up the radar, as if it sensed all the dark greens, oranges, and reds would be just too much to handle.
The host led us to the back of the restaurant, through the swinging doors, and to the immaculate white-linen table in the midst of the chaotic kitchen. Chefs, line cooks, and servers bustled around us. We were celebrating a belated Christmas gift – a four-course feast right at the “Chef’s Table” in the heat of it all. For three hours, we watched the often-hidden mystery of how decadent culinary creations are frantically created in a complex system. Under the bright lights, loud clangs, and orders shouted, exquisite plates made their way out to quiet dining rooms to hushed conversations over candle-light. Busy, efficient, and beautiful, the kitchen staff raced around us like we were but an invisible feature of the kitchen.
There are times that this year has felt just like those three hours. Away from work, from our community, from our home, we wait as time goes on around us. I spend my days alone with our boys as I shuttle them to bus stops, preschool, and appointments. I orient my hours around nursing an infant, fitting in school work, picking up the house, cooking dinner, welcoming my beloved home, and preparing lunch for another day. My parents visited this weekend and as I waved goodbye to them at the airport, I couldn’t help but feel like it would be an eternity until I saw them again. And yet I returned to our sabbatical home knowing that these five months still have something yet to teach me. The year is not done with me yet.
TIME eludes me – slipping out from my hands, laughing at my attempts to hold it steady.
TIME contains me – measuring, ordering, and claiming me in its passing.
TIME slays me – cutting my stride at the knees when future thoughts cause me to assume that it is passing faster than it is.
“Who loves you more than me?” I asked as we pulled up to the bus stop.
“Daddy?” he asked.
“No. Even more than Daddy.”
“Yes, God loves you so much – more than even Daddy and I can. And God loves every single person the most – each person who sits at your table in school, the ones who walk down the hallway next to you, your teachers, and the people holding signs by the interstate entrances. Can you imagine loving everyone so much?”
If I could give our three year old anything to satisfy his greatest desire, it would be simply this – the time and space for me to be fully his. We would play the game of his choosing and he would giggle. We would drop everything and run outside whenever he remembered how much he wanted to play golf in the garage. Then he would lead me by the hand through the house with his eyes bright, taking in all the options that now shone bright for I was his.
When he loses his composure, whether from sleepiness, hunger, or sadness about some limitations, the words come tumbling from his little three-year-old lips – “I just want to be with you.“
Last year when I had to walk youth through some difficult moments, I grabbed a dry-erase marker and created three columns… what we know, what we feel, and what we say we believe (and must remind ourselves in hard times). As the inauguration looms, I find myself employing the same strategy for the future that looms before us.
Watching our kids outside my front window in the freshly fallen snow, I can’t help but wonder at all I cannot understand…
…the power that God’s creation has to bring slow time to a rushed world
…a child’s ability to be joyfully present in a single moment that is protected from yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s worries.
…the daily practice of forgiveness and grace that sustains our days
A professor in Duke’s Doctor of Ministry program made the case in class this week that the world is, indeed, enchanted. God’s presence is infused in every nook and cranny. When we participate with this reality, we are dancing with God’s glory. He argued that church’s task is to bring the enchanted world to the people whose domesticated god has left them bored, disconnected, and lost.
It is a reality that we cannot comprehend, cannot adequately describe, and cannot control. It is a mystery which we blindly plumb. We do so with the assurance that we will never fully understand it and yet we will uncover crumbs that can satisfy the restless soul.
As the snow blankets the ground and little wrapped bundles of presence shriek and squeal as they slide down the driveway, I wonder at the enchanted mystery in which they are playing. I stand amazed at how theology takes flesh right before my eyes in red cheeks and snow-covered gloves.
Perhaps he is right.
Praise be to the Creator of this enchanted mystery who still enchants the weary heart.
“Every day I see or I hear something that more or less kills me with delight, and leaves me like a needle in the haystack dog light.
It was what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.
Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant – but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these – the untamable light of the world, the ocean’s shrine, the prayers that are made out of grass?”
– Mary Oliver, “Mindful”
Last January, I wrote two words in my journal – courage and kindness. I was entering into a hard year and even before I lived it, I knew. I knew I was going to need courage and kindness in order to make it.
Change was rolling within and around me. We were deciding our future plans and the gravity of the decisions weighed heavily upon us. Our decisions set forth a wave of changes for all those around us. Some of those waves brought joy. Some of those waves brought grief. All of it touched the core of who we were and who we would be. All of it forced me to trust that God was doing something in our lives that I could not understand.
Courage: Showing up even when it very well might be painful or frightening
Kindness: Showing up together and recognizing that that which is painful or frightening is not the other but something that is beyond the both of you.