She was only gone for a night. Less than 24 hours. I pick her up early for a whirlwind of a morning. In the car on our way to church, we have the typical Q&A exchange you would expect after a night away. We arrive at church, drop Brother at his class and walk the long hallway on the way to her class. We emerge into the lobby, bustling with people and conversations, smelling of the coffee bar and Sunday perfume.
The chaos stops her cold and she grabs my hand, something rare for her no matter her age. She looks up, her bed head untamed from her adventure full of 7-year old girls and giggles in sleeping bags and chocolate chip pancakes with whip cream.
“Can I go to your class today?”
Not unusual that she wants to go to “my class”, but unusual in the way she asks. No fit. No whining. Just a genuine desire to come, to stay, to be with me. She’s been out in the world, alone. And she’s seven. And thank God seven year olds still need their mama’s adoration and caress and presence. Thank you Lord for this gift, this gift of desiring my presence.
We head into the sanctuary, “my class”, and find two seats in our normal section. The first time we’ve slowed since I picked her up. We shed coats and shift and settle in and finally we rest. But not for long. Soon the worship music starts. She sits with her activity sheets as usual and I stand to worship our God who brought her home safe and full of new memories.
As I’m singing and inviting His presence, her presence is what I notice. She’s standing beside me, looking up with those blue eyes that stole my heart more than 7 years ago and this face I know… she needs to be held. She is 45 pounds and her long legs dangle past my knee caps, but she still longs to be cradled after an adventure away from home. And my mama heart just can’t say no to this. I pick her up, grip her heavy body against me and as I do, I feel her weight press in, her little body let go of all she’s been holding in. I feel all that courage and bravery this little girl has carried around for half of a day fall to the ground. In mama's arms, she doesn't need courage.
I breathe in deep and I worship and thank God I still get these moments because I know they are fleeting. Someday I won’t even be able to lift her, someday she won’t desire my comfort, someday I won’t be the one she’ll collapse into. And I stand there in all my hope that I am training her well, that I am leading her to the One she can always collapse into, now just as easily as when my arms are too small to wrap around her fear. I pray and I sing and I raise open hands for this little girl, that our hearts are strung together in Christ so when the storms of life hit, she is not shaken and her heart is not silent.
The music stops and I sit and she has a seat reserved in this place that houses a multitude but she picks my lap and sits facing me. And I whisper another thanks straight through the rafters. We needed this Lord, these two girls that You made so much alike that knock heads and hold hearts tight and closed needed this moment. The gifts are falling faster than I can count. Thank you.
As we sit, she plays with my earrings and the buttons of my shirt and studies my face and smiles her smile that spills pure joy. Then she leans in and lays her head down. Her worldly adventure has left her exhausted and in a room of a thousand strangers, she finds peace and rest on my lap, in my arms. Another whisper toward the ceiling. Simply. Thank. You.
As she folds up into me, I smell her hair. She’s been somewhere I’m not familiar. I can smell the world in her locks and it’s different and doesn’t sit well in my heart and she'll need a bath before the day is over. At seven, her adventure was innocent. Even at her most unruly she is innocent.
But as I sat there smelling this new odor on my own daughter, I marveled at this gift of perspective. Is this how it is for my Heavenly Father when I return from my own wanderings out in the world, so far from Him who rises to show me compassion, who longs for me to come, who loves me as His nature in a way I will never comprehend.
Yes, yes I think it is. After I've gone off gathering the stench of the world, He is quick to lift me up, open His arms, hold me tight and watch my burdens fall heavy to the ground as I finally return to rest in Him.And I wonder... when I return from my not-so-innocent wanderings, do I delight in Him the way my daughter did in me? Do I study His face and fold up into Him? Do I play with His hair and enjoy His presence? Or do I return ashamed, feeling condemned.
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)
And for the remainder of the service, the time devoted to understanding more about God and His nature and His word, He impresses my heart with this image of sitting in His lap like a child, delighting in my return and not giving one thought to what I've done while I was away because I am home. After He enjoys my return to the fullest, He will wash me clean and cover me in the fragrance of Christ as He whispers softly, "Welcome home, child."