After weeks of brilliant blue skies, summer’s long-exhaled goodbye, the rain recently returned to my corner of the Pacific Northwest. Three years in this part of the world have taught me winter rain is a fact of life. No matter what the weather is doing or the summer has been like, the rain will come.
The first few early weeks of rain-washed earth and sky are so, so lovely. Monochromatic gray clouds march in formation against scarlet leaves, flaming in bright defiance to their fate. A steady heartbeat of raindrops lull me to sleep most nights. By morning, glittering marbles decorate the seams and stitches of yesterday’s webs.
A friend and I were discussing matters of faith, life, and everything in between recently, and she brought up the concept of viewing the passage of time as God does. The child of missionaries, she spent a large portion of her childhood overseas. In the information delay of receiving news back from the States, she shared how her dad would still pray for family and friends who already had surgery, etc., because he didn’t yet know the outcome. Believing time not a linear concept to God who holds all things—all of creation, all of humanity, all of everything that ever was, ever is, and ever will be—in His hands, prayers could never be in vain or too late.
Time then could be viewed as a constraint of our humanity. Since our human lives stand finite as part of creation, decaying and longing and groaning the further it stretches away from that pivotal point in the garden, time matters to us, scares us. Our mortality confronts us with increasing regularity as time passes. I feel this fleeting nature of life more acutely, the seasonality of it all, in fall more so than any other time of year. The rain arrives, days shorten in on themselves, darkness envelops morning and evening routines.
This is my oldest daughter’s last year of high school, the final year of her childhood set in motion. It feels like a long goodbye, where every significant day, such as the beginning of the school year or holidays all invite desperation, silently screaming, last, last, last! The last first day of school, the last Thanksgiving spent at home, the last weeks to peek my head into her room at night and whisper, Good night, I love you, over her sleeping form. Each parent knows, deep down, the brevity of childhood.
So many mothers view this season as one of only innumerable loss. They feel emptied and abandoned. I have seen this play out in the lives of numerous other women. The way they behaved, lashing out against the inevitable change of children to adults, sons to husbands, served as a cautionary tale in my own life, encouraging me to fight to maintain my own identity in Christ, separate from my children. If we are not careful, even motherhood becomes an idol.
Resisting motherhood’s all-consuming nature does not render me blameless of idolatry. With each passing year I, too, feel the crush of time’s passing, windows of opportunity slowly closing against dreams and desires lurking just out of reach. Fear of provision births scarcity. Appointing myself as sole producer of my happiness, provider of my needs, purveyor of my future, forgoes faith and disregards the very heart of the Gospel.
We humans will do almost anything to avoid suffering. Anticipating the void my daughter’s leaving will hollow in my heart and in our lives, I’ve been fighting the urge to rush headlong into “what’s next.” How will I ever know the right thing to fill this space if I don’t first know its imprint? My daughter’s moving forward into the next season of her life doesn’t terminate my role. She will always be my daughter, and I will always be her mom. My very body testifies to her existence, the soft and milky-sweet weight of her forever etched on my soul.
Yet, in this weird season of lament, there is also so much joy. Grief, but such excitement for my daughter and her future. I feel particularly drawn to pause here in the midst of these seemingly conflicting emotions. I hold back from giving myself over fully to one or the other. A cup of bitterness to the left, blessing on the right. I’ve been meditating on Psalm 16:5-8 often.
Lord, you are my portion
and my cup of blessing;
you hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who counsels me—
even at night when my thoughts trouble me.
I always let the Lord guide me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
I don’t believe this point in my life (or any for that matter) is viewed as a dot on a finite timeline from God’s perspective. Rather, our earthly lives compose a body of work–past, present, future–with endless opportunities–mind, body, soul, strength–to participate and create and glorify. Rarely do we get a glimpse of the end-game, but we are still tasked with trusting.
I don’t know what the future holds for my daughter, but I trust the relational and spiritual groundwork we’ve sought to build her whole life. I also trust the One who holds her so tightly and loves her infinitely more than I ever could. My life, her life, our lives, bound and sealed by Jesus’ finished work. Life is hard and I am sad at this particular point in my story, but I know there’s a bigger and better story, written by the One who is and who was and who is to come.