“NOOOO!” her body crumbles at the suggestion that her immune-suppressed frame should go to bed even just minutes earlier than the rest of my crew. “But that would mean I’d be alone upstairs.”
It’s starting to become clear to me. Who I once labeled as my little extrovert is really just one skirting fear. She rushes through morning tasks, all so that she isn’t the last one left — alone. Lights in odd places when the sun goes down signal safety to her. She didn’t have a nightlight in the early years when the night sky was bright. A dark room has corners she can’t see.
So she’s gotten smart — just like her mama — she’s hedged fear in that way by which ones who don’t know what to do with it keep it at bay. She spins her days, avoiding what scares her. Rooms of siblings and a bedroom she shares with two others are her playground. Outside is always safe to her and the basement is a great place to let loose when it’s loud and light.
She’s learned to manage.
Just like us. We learn to manage.
I hold my breath when I open the door to his sleeping nook, waiting to watch his body awaken to my touch and I picture her leg to be severed when I hear the crash downstairs. I bolt upright, out of bed, in response to the middle-of-the-night text, and I occasionally wonder if any college would accept her one day. All these little subtleties that, when lumped together, indicate something’s just … not right.
It’s normal, but not how I was made to be.
He’s a gift and he sleeps, a lot. And wakes just as often. That crash was the drum-set in the hands of clumsy children. That text? From Africa. My 3AM was her late morning. She sent a picture of her children. The daughter who couldn’t read last week and who fueled my late-night conversations with Nate about whether her mind might be stunted is the one who prayed eloquent words, days later, over one of the earth’s most broken — discarded — and brought him to tears.
I want my life to stretch towards Him. I want my heart to grow. I want my insides to be alive. Yet my capacity to grow in Him stops at the foot of fear.
Tighten the seatbelts, double-bolt the doors and keep the bed rails up a year longer than necessary. Never buy a house with a pool or take my children to a “dangerous” city. Be careful and cautious with every word. This list goes on and it varies from person to person, tailored uniquely to each of our fears. I passively research a whole life’s worth of “insurances”, assuring my weak heart that I can somehow prevent my very worst fears from happening.
But it’s right here — in these little provisions for my fears — that I exchange a life lived, alive, in an always-safe, always-protected Love to instead grasp at an assurance I can never fully attain.
And fear is the indicator. Fear is the flag that says “love hasn’t yet penetrated here.”
I watched her dance the other day. She rested her eyes shut, lost to all around her but Him. In that moment, her heart was free. It didn’t matter, then, if we’d all left the room or turned out the lights or if the night-sky fell around her. She was absorbed in this dance, her legs and arms yielding gracefully to the purity of her as God’s wee thing.
That dance is my prayer for 2014: The Year of Ten Thousand Yeses.
I’ve spent many years trying to say “no” to fear only to find that resisting fear, alone, doesn’t make fear disappear. Fear is super-charged with history and habit and life’s little splinters-turned-deep-wound. Sure, I can toss one “no” in fear’s direction, but it’s bound to come back if I haven’t quickly followed that “no” with a “yes” to Him.
But when I say “yes” to Him — in the big and in the small — something shifts inside of me. When she’s biked ahead and doesn’t respond when we call her name, I can whisper under my breath God, let me see You, now, as her safe Father. When her sister’s emotions uncoil (again, at the same darn request) I can tuck away, in a quiet room, and plead Lord, You are her heart-healer. Let me see this side of You. And when he calls us to fly across an ocean and trump our birth order, in an unfamiliar country, I can talk to Him as the God who holds my hand through it all.
There is only one thing that disrupts fear’s deathgiving grip: it’s a God-Man and His crazy-unconventional love.
This year I will whisper “yes”, hundreds of thousands of times under my breath to the the Man close enough to make my motherhood and my life alive.
I suspect it may just be the year I see some of the worst of my fears fade.
And though I’m praying the same for her, I can’t take her where I haven’t first gone.
For Your Continued Pursuit (Just this one today. It’s a biggy.): 1 John 4:12-19
This is the third of the “Year of Ten Thousand Yeses” Series. Read the others: