My friend Becky sent me a text last week. “We have first graders,” it read. I fully expect to get a similar text from Becky at this same time every year up until our oldest children go to college. My first born, Cole, and her first born, Laurel, were in Mother’s Day Out together before they could even walk. They took some of their first wobbly steps side-by-side down the hallways of that big baptist church, back when Becky and I were first learning how to be mamas. She and I, we stumbled and fumbled right alongside our babies as we learned how to walk the rocky terrain of motherhood. And now, just like that, “we have first graders.”
Just like that. I’ve noticed that ever since I became a mother (6 years, 5 months and 7 days ago) I’ve developed a very bipolar relationship with time. I’m either begging it to speed up (Is it nap time yet?) or praying it would slow down (first loose tooth already?!) It’s as if the moment that first baby was placed in my arms my entire life became suddenly consumed with the notion of time.
bed-time, bath-time, lunch-time, play-time, nap-time, dinner-time (no time for me-time)
If there’s one thing having kids will do to you, it is to direct your attention to the relentlessly unwavering passage of time. Although at almost any given moment of practically any particular day with these wild boys of mine you can bet that I’m counting down the hours until bedtime, not one night passes where I don’t tip-toe into their rooms to kiss them goodnight – fully aware that eventually my time with them runs out.
Motherhood is all-consuming and seemingly never-ending, yet it is engulfed by the finite.
Yes, mamas, as endless as it may seem to us while we are here in the trenches, we exist in a world where all things are finite. There are a finite number of baths to give and bubbles to blow. A finite number of lullabies to sing and bedtime stories to read. A finite number of booboos to kiss, temper tantrums to quell and dinnertime shenanigans to bear.
And as each little milestone turns my attention once again to all this passing time, I mourn the thought of these children of mine growing. I wonder, how can I fit the infinite amount of love that I have for my littles into the finite amount of time I have with them? How can you squeeze something that knows no boundaries into something so bound by the boundary of time?
Admittedly, these questions have at times caused me to shake my fists toward the heavens. The systematic way in which I have had to let go of my littles has seemed almost cruel to me as I have struggled to understand why God would place them in my arms only to pry them from the tight grip of my hands. I just can’t always make sense of the tension between my desire to hold them near and the reality that I am always having to let them go.
These heart-tensions came to a head for me at this same time last year – the day I sent Cole off to Kindergarten. That Monday morning I loaded him up with everything on the school supply list, sucked back my tears, and bravely sent him on his way. There’s not one social-related fear in that kid, so he trotted in like a pro without so much as a glance back at me. As I watched the door close behind him, it was obvious that my boy was fine (but his mother obviously was not). I held it together just long enough to make it back home, where I stood in the kitchen and cried. And cried. And cried, working myself into a full-out, heaving, choking frenzy until finally, I resolutely told the Lord “NO!” that I simply could not let go of the babies he had given me.
After a few minutes of silence, I realized that I had no choice in the matter, so I asked Him why. Why was He going to require that I let go of my children time and time again? (At that point I didn’t think that I could survive the whole kindergarten send off two more times with the other boys, let alone middle school, high school and God forbid they move away for college…)
And then I got an answer I didn’t expect. He said it right to my heaving, frenzied heart, “Letting go of them forces you to grab hold of Me.”
And suddenly the grace of it all filled up my soul. Because boy, has it ever. Somehow, by placing what is so vulnerably finite into our arms, He pulls us into the embrace of The Infinite One. And with each passing milestone that this life brings, the Lord is rising up in our mama-hearts a furious longing for the things that will never end.
So with all this in mind, I sent my first-born off to Mrs. Kennedy’s first grade class this morning, his backpack filled to the rim with everything he might need for the day. He marched in like a champ, just like I knew he would, not once looking back. And his mama? Well, I lingered outside the school for a bit, clutching on a little tighter than usual to the hands of my 4 and 2 year olds, and eventually we walked away too, as I said a quick prayer, thanking the Lord for the infinite beauty of the finite things He has given me.
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me – Psalm 50:23