Wednesday, May 21, 2008
An embarrassment of riches. That is the idiom I am struck with. I don't know why. It doesn't really apply... not exactly. The phrase speaks to an overabundance of something... too much of a good thing. That isn't literally how I feel. I don't believe that they are too much... not in the sense that I crave less. And yet, late at night, when I tiptoe into each of their rooms and stare... at their innocence... their overwhelming beauty... it often feels like... too much. Too much love. Too much adoration. It seems impossible that there is enough room in my heart to house it all. Each day, it seems that I am full to capacity... and then one of them looks at me, full of wonder, and states a basic need; a need that only I can meet; a need which they feel entirely safe to put forth, in the knowledge that I will provide... and they say that word; that divine word... they say, "daddy"... and the love expands. There is, magically, ever more space. The heart is remarkable that way.
They are not mine; I know that. I don't know how to make people; nor does my wife. We simply made love. Ten months later I watched a fully formed human being emerge from Lorri. As I stood frozen observing this miracle, I remember thinking, "this has very little to do with me." They are God's children. In God's infinite wisdom, they have been placed in my care (best job I ever had). When I hold that truth before me, I worry less. Because, God knows, the worry can completely consume you. In my mind, I have raced them to the hospital and watched their bodies go limp and buried them and mourned for them more times than I can count. There are surely times when this level of love feels like a trap. Who knew it would be this intense; this overwhelming; this all-consuming? And now, there is no going back. They are here and I love them this much... and now I get to fear losing them every moment of every day for the rest of my life... because if they are taken from me... i will die. So how do I resolve this challenge? How does the experience of parenthood not destroy me?
Someone once explained the difference between grace and mercy thusly: "grace is getting things you probably don't deserve while mercy is not getting things you probably do deserve." I have received much of both. Do I deserve them? It's hard to know. Perhaps it is not even a useful question. And yet, I wonder... I know many who have lived lives far more righteous than mine, who have not been so abundantly blessed. Is that fair? And I am brought back to an embarrassment of riches.
The day Syd emerged is emblazoned on my conscious mind forever. The detail with which I recall that day is startling. The level of intimacy I experienced that glorious Saturday is more than many will know in a lifetime. If Syd had lived only through that one day, I would have treasured that one day forever. Yet, I have been granted 1,787 additional days of watching over and caring for this life. What's more, I got another one! Another tiny little female person to care for. Another one... just as good! J.J. has been mine to safeguard for 732 days thus far. She's an entirely different being than her sister; stalwart where Syd is yielding; reckless where Syd is heedful; tomboyish where Syd is quite the girly-girl. But both of them... both of them make me dizzy with ebullience. Both of them can draw joyful tears from my eyes any moment of any day. And so it feels like... too much. Sometimes, i can't get close enough to them; I can't squeeze them tight enough; I feel as if I am capable of devouring them.
The awareness of how richly blessed I have been, is the key to engaging my children through love rather than fear. Considering what I have already been granted, how dare I question how long I get to keep them? It becomes a bit of a 'what-have-you-done-for-me-lately' relationship with God. When I remain rooted in gratitude, it becomes clear that I am already playing with the house money.
They are my greatest teachers. They educate me. I study their wisdom and I am right-sized. They teach me what it truly means to be color-blind. They show me how to honor my needs and stand in my truth. They instruct me on living in the moment and reveling in the simple things. And, most of all, they make me strive to be better- in their eyes I see the very best me I could hope to be. I suppose I could never hope to be what they believe me to be; and I suppose they will find that out soon enough. For now, though, this pedestal feels awfully comfortable.