There we were in the kitchen last night—she and I—falling into each other, leaning our full weight into the embrace as is. My arms wrapped around her. She let the day’s exhaustion out, a week-long sigh exhaling into the room: this sweet girl trying to let out her emotions “I’m so stressed out, and I don’t know why,” she said. Welcome to life: to being a preteen, a woman, a human finding her place in mankind, all of the above. I could have said it, but the words would have fallen hard.
Her soft light brown hair smoothed under my fingers and smelled like first rain. Straight tresses, just like her mama. Oh, yes, I feel it too. The need to just be and know I don’t need to get it all done to be worthy. She slumps in closer. I’m not sure how many slumps a ten year old can slump; she must have been slumping for a week’s worth of days. We found solace in letting the tension pour out through our arms and into each other. The hug buoyed us up, like two survivors of a shipwreck tethered together with a couple of life jackets.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
Prodding the kids to finish their homework, to bathe faster than a superhero changes outfits, and to please do their chores without being reminded five times before the final buzzer at 9 p.m.—it was enough to skew my focus to see the task, not my people or this precious girl.
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Psalm 86:15-17 The Message
We’re all new to early rising, early bedtimes, starting formal school. We’re new to packing lunches, stuffing backpacks with checked and signed folders, laying out our clothes the night before, and oh yeah, practicing piano and helping out in the kitchen after dinner. The question remains—how to fit bathing in? Four years of homeschooling gave us leeway and the leisure to linger. We certainly didn’t take baths every day then, so I won’t get all overzealous about the soap. I wouldn’t trade those slower days for a truckload of Toblerone.
We thirst for a place where we are fully embraced as is.
We recently joined the world of normal schedules in suburbia: the one driven by the public school calendar. We are learning to admire all the families who work all day, pick up kids, do the shopping, make dinner, and BATHE their children. These are the families who try their best to do it all and be present to kids and spouse. I am reminded with each arduously crabby afternoon, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can do it all.
We’re kicking ourselves before the day begins if we anticipate completing each day’s to-do’s. We’re killing ourselves if we think every moment is going to be quality-filled and meaningful. What we need is a place to unwind: a haven where a holy love permeates our put-togetherness, can-do attitude, and amazing color-coded calendar. We thirst for a place where we are fully embraced as is.
As is means coming to the open arms with all our stressors and failures—the dirty dishes taking over the kitchen, the tufts of dog hair in the hallway corners, the piles of junk in the garage for the summer garage sale that just may finally happen in September. For the kids, as is means admitting they are struggling to keep up—to remember to feed the dog without being told, find the hairbrush, and read twenty minutes every night BEFORE 9 p.m.
Coming to God as we are and letting ourselves be loved right there comes at a price. We realize we can never do it all or be everything we want to be for the people we love. Bonnie Gray is the one who seared AS IS onto my soul in her book Finding Spiritual Whitespace, “Jesus can enter into whatever space we find ourselves. As is.”
Later in the book she explains how she found her space of grace: “There is a place here and now that Jesus has been preparing for the little girl in me. That place is my heart, where Jesus has been doing deep, healing work—to accept her as she is. To let her know there is a place in this world for her. Because Jesus understands her. Because Jesus loves her. As is.”
Grace space is where our need to be loved collides with God’s enveloping. The Father doesn’t care how much we do, He cares how much we trust Him with ourselves.
I breathed in my daughter’s showered essence. I held her tight to my chest and we leaned in together, both of us sighing intermittently. We stood there a long while until we could feel the day melt away and the sacred moment enfold us.