Friday, September 3, 2010

First contact

Since J had his shoulder surgery two weeks ago, he's been mostly living at home.  I say mostly because every now and then he gets a ride out to his own place to hang with his roommate and rare cats (and by that I mean actual rare cats).  J's wearing quite an elaborate sling, complete with stomach cushion, so that his upper arm and shoulder don't move even the centimeter-and-a-half that the doctor pulled those ligaments.  So he isn't allowed to drive.  He has, however, figured out a way to drive off after showers, which is nice, since having your dad help you when you're 23 is a little much, though he did suffer that indignity the first couple of days when he was in too much pain to care.

But the fact that he can't drive means that it's a little like living with a fifteen-year-old again.  A fifteen-year-old who's used to going where he wants when he wants.  Just like I'm used to letting him.  It's been a long time since I've had to cart my kids around--like almost 5 years (SK got her license a little late, for those of you who know that she's actually 21).  And it's made me think of those years when driving them around was the prime occupation of my days.

When my kids were small, I loved driving them around.  We spent so much time in the car together that I considered it my classroom, in a sense.  We'd talk through all their concerns of the day.  I had the strongest sense that if I wasn't the first person they talked to when they left their classrooms, by the time they got home, they'd have other things in their heads.  This was partly because the bus ride to our house from school was an hour and a half long, even though we only lived seven miles from the building.  And there was no way I was going to miss their whole day--at least the most important part of it--because of a long bus ride.  So I made it my business to be waiting in the car for them when they came out of that building.  J, dragging his sweatshirt and backpack behind him along with all the cares of his day; SK skipping out of the school, probably clutching an invitation to a birthday party in her hand; and E, walking toward me at exactly the right pace, with a list in her head of the homework she had, and the order in which she would get it done.  By the way, E's orderly approach to homework meant that the other two just sat right down and did theirs with her--without a word from me.  Worked like a charm, and made me look like a much better mother than I probably was.  Thanks, E!

So I loved being their driver.  Loved hearing their stories.  The only thing I ever minded was that it finally came to an end, and with it, so did that intimate, first contact.  My going back to school changed things first. I take responsibility for that.  But so did their growing up.  Blast these kids, they just have to go and grow up on us.  I remember saying to E when she was small, "Stop it, stop growing right now."  And she'd always answer, "I can't.  God made me to grow."

Wise words, those.  I thought so then, and think so now.  God made her to grow.  As He makes all of us.  And these days, as I'm driving my 23-year-old son around, and being reminded of those 'first contact' days, I also think of how God wants to be that first contact with me.  I'm afraid I haven't been very good at that lately.  I've become somewhat independent.  No, I'm not going to go all, 'driving my own car' as a metaphor on you, but I do think that with all the stress that's been piled on this year, my default mode hasn't been to go to Him first.  Instead, it's been to try to figure it out--whatever the 'it' in any particular circumstance is. And then I wonder why I'm not growing.  Why I'm struggling with anger, why I'm so exhausted all the time.  There's no first contact.  Some days there's no second or third or fourth. Maybe there's a fifth.  Maybe, by the time I'm laying me down to sleep, I pray to God my soul to keep, and then some. But what about all those daylight hours when I'm heaving the burdens of my life onto my shoulders and just trying to manage them myself?  No wonder my shoulders hurt.

So, God.  First contact.  You made me to grow.  Even now, even at my ripe old age of 53 when you might have expected I'd have learned this all a hundred times before.  Well, I have, and I still have to learn it again. Who can bear my burdens?  The one who bore them.  How many times will it take me to learn?  Seventy times seven, apparently.  As many as it takes.  His shoulders can take it.  His holey, holy hands, his pierced side and nail-driven feet can carry what I need him to carry.  HE is my first contact.  I need Him to be, and He's willing to be.  Not to change the burdens to bear them.  To change me.

"Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

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