Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When I See You and You See Me

Last week, David and I drove down to Bloomington to see our grandson's end-of-the-year preschool program. Eli was lined up with his class when we walked in and the surprise and joy on his face made the hour-plus drive a very small token to pay. He had a gray polo shirt on and right away I noticed his sparkling, blue-gray eyes. They get me every time.

We went out for ice cream after the program and I sat down next to him. He shimmered with sticky delight, his face spilling over in cascades of joy and pleasure as he ate his ice cream cone. But there was one moment in particular that I continue to savor. It was the moment when I looked deep into his eyes and he looked back.

I saw him and he saw me.

For that delicious moment, our hearts kissed. We transmitted love and connection from one to the other. A solitary and poignant moment when I saw him in all his boyish wonder and he saw me in all my grandmotherly adoration.

This isolated frame in my memory symbolizes a deep longing I have when I'm with Eli. I want to touch his soul. I want to see him and I want him to see me--to see the love I have for him that shows up so clearly and unmistakably on my face.

I remember wanting the same thing with my kids when they were little. I recall being conscious each day of seeking out a moment when I made eye contact with them and received eye contact in return. Somehow I knew that it was through looking into our eyes that the bond of our connection was formed.

I've reflected on this experience with Eli for a few days now. I'm still smitten by the memory of his amazing blue-gray eyes. And this memory has been a reminder to me of real prayer.

Prayer for me is just like this: seeing God as God sees me. Real prayer is the moment when I purpose to gaze into the face of God and see him with spiritual eyes. It's the sensation of being seen by him in return; all of me, my goodness and un-loveliness co-mingled.

In this tender, bonding moment I know that God loves me as I am. Our hearts kiss.

I believe that the same desire in me that searches out Eli's face to gaze into his eyes and see him is the same desire that moves God toward me and me toward God in prayer.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Most Unnatural Natural Task of Motherhood: Letting Go

When did it happen? Was it after they laid you on my chest and you slid toward my cheek, slimy and covered in vernix, and I felt your warmth and smelled your wonder. And then they whisked you away to check you and make sure all your parts were working and I wanted to say, "No, not yet." But I didn't.  I let go.

Or when I passed you over the half-door of the nursery to a grandmotherly figure who assured me you would be just fine and I glanced back over my shoulder as I walked away, wishing I could stay with you, just in case you cried. But I went to church, instead.

With each little accomplishment, like feeding yourself, or taking steps unassisted, or climbing out of your crib, you won small victories in your quest for independence and I took small steps toward my journey of letting go of you.

There were those Kodak moments for sure of you singing your first solo, getting on the school bus for the first time, and your first sleep-over at a friends that gave me practice at something I both celebrated and made me cry.

The stakes seemed even higher when I turned over the keys to the car, said good-bye to you on a date with a boy I didn't know, extended your curfew and stayed awake, praying in the night for your safety and that you would make wise choices.

When we loaded up a van from floor to ceiling and then carried all its contents up three flights of stairs into your first dorm room, and drove away, leaving you behind and returning to a house with an empty room, I felt the severing more profoundly than ever--a throb so deep and right that I couldn't argue with it; I just had to accept it.

I watched you as you met your bride at the head of the aisle, all grown up and handsome, marrying the girl you'd told me at the age of six you would marry some day because you were a family man--and I knew my task was, for the most part, complete.

And now, though you're on your own, living a full life, and working hard, you still return to me--sometimes when life is disappointing, or someone breaks your heart or you need a back rub, or you just need a mom. In those moments, I can feel confused because I want to hang on; to be indispensable. But I know I can't and I'm not.

All along the way and even now, motherhood has asked of me a very unnatural thing--to let go of you. Nothing about it has ever felt good and yet everything about it is. I look at you today, so accomplished and self-assured, and I see why.  

You're really quite amazing.