Playing in the Not Knowing
I am in the front yard of what I have called home for years and years and I am lighting up sparklers. I light up two at a time and my daughter shrieks in fear and fascination as I spin and fly around the yard. “Don’t get too close to me” she says. “Mommy, I want to try doing two at a time, too” I hear my son say. I tell them I am pretending to be a light fairy with a fiery wand. We run around in the wet grass, darkness enveloping us as we laugh.
I don’t know where we will call home in a matter of weeks, but this moment…this moment of childlike abandon…this moment of PLAY…is how I say… “I TRUST You.”
It is the next day just after breakfast and I am trying to decide the best way to organize my time and I hear my two year old start singing: “happy, happy” and I know what she wants. I turn on the recently popular song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and our kitchen becomes a dance studio and for a few minutes, for the few times that song is played, smiles dominate our faces and our chests rise a few inches.
I know I won’t get done much today while caring for these four lovies, but this moment…this moment of happy dancing…this moment of PLAY…is how I say… “I TRUST You”.
We moved back to Cleveland, Tennessee, my hometown, from the Czech Republic when my oldest daughter was 3. Relative to our adult lifetime we did not live in Prague very long….about two and a half years. Relative to the lifetime of my two little girls (ages 3 and a half and 1 and a half), it had been…well…a lifetime.
We went to the grocery store for the first time after moving back “home” and as I rolled the cart to place the groceries in the trunk of our borrowed car my three year old, sitting in front of the cart, said to me: “Mommy, why do people talk to you at the grocery store?”
Her question made me laugh, but I knew why she asked it. First, in Prague everyone in the stores spoke Czech, which I did not speak. In her lifetime, there had been minimal conversations on grocery trips. Second, in Prague, a city with roughly one and a half million people, I did not know many people.
So, when we moved back to Cleveland and not only did we now speak the language, but mommy also personally knew the man labeling items, asking how his son and daughter were doing and “Is your wife still teaching school”…and then stops to have a conversation with a woman on aisle three…monumental changes in your little life are made clear on a trip to the grocery store.
Here we speak the language. In this place we know the people…and we are known.
People are pretty perceptive and a friend of mine stopped me at church a few weeks ago, asking me if something was up. Apparently my son had said something in children’s church that made her curious. What he said ended up having nothing to do with anything (or did it?), but instead of being completely evasive, and, perhaps dishonest, I just said to my friend: “Just pray that God would shut any doors that are not good.” She agreed.
Later when it was clear that either this door WAS good, or our prayers were not very effective, I let my friend know that we were moving. She then tells me that she wasn’t surprised and had been led to pray something different than the prayer I had requested. She felt like God asked her to pray that I would be able to be ok leaving my relationships in Cleveland.
Here I speak the language. In this place I know the people…and I am known.
I knew we needed to tell the children and I felt anxiety building in my chest like a water balloon, ready to burst any moment through my eyes. We made plans for how to tell the three oldest children, choosing to tell the oldest first. I was concerned about how they would take it and that’s when I heard a whisper in my heart. “Your children will give you courage.”
We sat in Jon’s office at church telling our oldest about this very big thing…about us moving to a new city. We heard ourselves telling her things like “we will be closer to the beach” and “we will still be close enough to family to visit often” and she looked at us with tears in her eyes and simply said: “If God wants us to do this then it must be good.”
Days later I am scouring through homes for rent in communities within the city, suburbs that are larger than my entire hometown. I am incredibly uneducated in the area’s geography and school systems. Just that morning I was overwhelmed and left speechless by our first service with Renovatus when my husband was installed as their pastor. I watched each person as they walked up to take part of the Eucharist and was struck by the beauty found in each of their faces. I was overwhelmed and speechless because I realized in that moment that I was watching an event unfold that I would never forget. It was thick with significance and meaning. It felt holy and I wanted to lift up my hands and direct all of the attention to God. I wanted to schedule meals and time around the table with every person in that room.
I felt like I had arrived at a new home.
But, now…hours later… I am like a Hebrew child…promised that there is a land for me, but crying about the details of getting there.
I hear my children laughing and my youngest runs up to me: “Hi, mommy!” Big, huge, light-up-my-world smile on her face and she says: “Up, mommy!” I pick her up and she lays her head on my chest. I dance with her for a moment before she wants down.
“Your children will give you courage” I hear again.
I realize part of what has given me courage the last several years…is being KNOWN…and KNOWING…people, places, events, things.
And, there is nothing wrong with that. Close communities where you wave at people you know who drive by as you play in the front yard and where your best friend’s sister is your child’s teacher and your mother’s friend cuts your hair…these are precious communities to be treasured.
But, I think I am being asked to find my courage somewhere else these days.
“Your children will give you courage.”
So today I started thinking about that message to me and I thought about what it is that I actually DO with my children…what my relationship with them looks like.
I PLAY with my children.
I run and dance and laugh and make messes. I sing and make goofy sounds. I listen. I sit down and let them climb in my lap. I read stories and look up interesting places to go and explore. I look up new movies for us to see.
With my children I am an explorer and a dreamer and a goofball and an artist and…I PLAY.
Is there a greater statement of “I trust you” than when our children just PLAY…when they stop asking us questions about what, when, who, why and just go off and explore and dance and dream and CREATE?
And, I wonder if this TRUST, as evidenced by being playful, isn’t the most significant ingredient in courage?
One book in the bible that seems very depressing to us Western Christians is Ecclesiastes.
Here is Ecclesiastes 1:2: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Here is Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
How’s that for a motivational speech?
In our “yes, all things WILL work out for your good…if you work really hard and take everything very seriously” world we read these verses with an attitude that is not quite honest to its original intent.
The book kind of scares us. Ok, it scares ME.
Ecclesiastes also talks a lot about “not knowing”. (You really should read Jon’s post on this book here. He still laughs when I bring it up. Actually he is still laughing…like right now as I tell him I am inserting this. You will understand if you read his post.)
“…you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5.
“Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come.” Ecclesiastes 9:12.
In a world where knowledge, control, and power…where KNOWING…and being KNOWN…are cultural commodities and social currency this NOT KNOWING…is scary stuff. It doesn’t make sense to us.
Ecclesiastes is read in the feast of booths. They read this book at a party…and not just ANY party. This is a party celebrating leaving Egypt…the “in between” time between Egypt and the Promise Land…it is a celebration of NOT KNOWING…it is a celebration of not knowing the meaning of things…of the fact that all of our hard work actually DOESN’T matter that much….and that is ok.
It is a celebration of trusting God.
Perhaps they dance and play and act goofy when they read it. Perhaps they are inspired to trust and play and party…and have courage.
My husband and I are dancing to Led Zepplin in a local restaurant in a new town that we have never visited until this very day, a look on my oldest daughter’s face a mixture of surprise, embarrassment, and delight. My son hops on the floor. He wants in on the dance, too. I spin him around and he says “Mama!” as though I have done something silly, but he doesn’t lose his grip on my hand. My youngest shakes her hips, cute and sassy, like only a two-year can pull off. My middle daughter smiles and looks content.
No one knows us here.
And this moment…this moment of liberty from details…this moment of NOT KNOWING and not being KNOWN…this moment of PLAY…is how I say… “I TRUST You”.