She stood stoically by the brick wall, a gaggle of giggly girls to her left. “Look at my new puppy backpack!” one girl shouted over and over to last year’s classmates as they walked by. Alice didn’t move much from the line Ms. W’s class was making outside the second-grade wing before their first day this morning. She looked at her shiny new shoes, her yellow lunchbox with bicycles on it hanging by her knees. She sniffed. Her three-year-old sister sat at my feet. Around the building stood Dave with Violet, outside the kindergarten wing.
We made it; we landed outside the school building today, sputtering and wiping the water from our brows.
This is what happens, I think, when you go in pretty deep. Eventually you end up back on shore, wondering how much pee water you’ve just had to drink. Or how much fun you’ve just had. Or both.
Can I be real for a second? I’ve spent the summer tired: a move will do that. The kids have spent it anxious: moving and a new school will do that. I’ve left the bible on the nightstand too often: it’s just all a bit much sometimes.
Writing a book on choosing intentional, new monasticism-inspired practices will move you a bit. You’ll walk out into the lake, expecting a calm scene. You’ll find yourself riding waves increasingly bigger, your big toe straining to touch sandy bottom in between the lifts.
That’s what God’s like.
You can stay on the beach and admire the movement He’s making. You can wade in and out. Or you can go out til the valleys between waves touches your shoulders, and let the water jolt you forward and skyward, the breaking water blinding you for a second.
You might wade in a homeschooler, and find yourself riding a wave all the way to the back-to-school aisle at the store, two backpacks in your hand. You might: God’s like that.
Writing this book has been like that. God’s like waves that don’t stop; like waves that grow and grow til you don’t know how you got out so far. People who live on the edge of the Pacific probably already know this, but we Midwesterners spend a lot of time staring out of our icy windows into the middle distance from November to May. We forget.
Saturday night, I fell asleep in my bed, feeling the echo of being tossed around in Lake Michigan’s waves all day in my inner ear. The imprint of what we’re doing — the motions we’re making, the waves we’re riding or jumping — resonates. And don’t my kids know it?
Hasn’t that been the challenge and the joy of this year of experiments, asking each other “How deep do you want to go?” while asking “How do I do this while holding a small child — or three?” How far will you move? How much would you rearrange your lives? Your bookshelves, your fridges, your schedules? How far? And for Whom? And why? And how are you talking about all this with your kids?
I can’t explain the waves thing to Alice yet; it’s a bit too poetic, even for the Calvin and Hobbes addict who said she’d have “Kafka-esque dreams” if we didn’t let her have ice cream after dinner the other night.
All I can say is — with words and by driving her to school today — that I love her, and I want her to have people around her. This is important, we’re saying: these people are. And you too. Being here is important.
And Alice stood outside that school today and wiped a tear before Shiny Puppy Backpack Girl could see. She’s going to be just great. And we will, too.