The Ache of Presence

I feel it from time to time, a dull ache beneath my heart, a yearning to stop time and gather in the moment. But there are other times, often more frequent, when I dash here and there like Roadrunner pursued, forgetting to relish the beauty of now.

As a mother, I feel this ache, this longing to be present with my children. And yet, I strap the yoke of guilt around myself days upon days because I fail to measure up. I don’t spend enough presence-time with my children. And the ache I feel from the guilt stifles me to try again, to be like those ancient monks who simply fell down and got up, fell down and got up.

Today, on French Mother’s Day, I read the end of Gilead. This portion jumped at me, beckoned me:

Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave–that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.

God populates our lives with people, and I am blessed to have children as a part of His portion to me. Oh to honor them, to revel in their beauty. I’ve been growing old lately (I’ve seen the lines on my face). It, frankly, has alarmed me. But when I’m quiet, really quiet, I hear the gentle whispers of God against my aging face, welcoming me to consider real beauty.

I won’t always be youthful. I’m headed toward heaven with every step on this earth. What will be my beauty, then? Certainly not the way I look when arthritis curves my back, or the shock of losing my memory. Beauty comes from deep inside. From loving others. For cherishing them in the moment. From letting the trials of life sand the edges of my sometimes-prickly soul.

I want to wear a beautiful soul as I age. I fear, in France, I’ve pulled away from that, preferring solitude over relationship as I long for familiar faces and home. Perhaps reading Gilead is God’s gracious reminder to me to honor the people He places in my life–my husband, my children, the mothers at school, the new friends He’s bringing to me. To do that, I need to shed the guilt straddling my heart over not being present.

The picture I have is of a swing, the kind dangling from an ancient tree whose roots run deeper than its limbs reach high. God beckons me to get on, but I circle it, making excuses, wondering if the limbs will hold me. It’s not until I sit, push off with tired feet and feel the wind against my face as I pump to soaring that I understand freedom, grace, beauty, joy. And when I stop, breathless and a little dizzy, my friends and family encircle me, laughing, asking to be a part, cajoling.

I want to swing in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the beauty of others.

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