Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Except You Become

It's been two days since I last saw them, the two-foot high tots that are just learning to take their first wobbly steps. W is the intrepid one. He's been practicing incessantly, pulling himself up at any chair or table leg or piece of furniture that he can get a hold of, then confidently squatting down until he can tuck a leg under and sprawl comfortably on the cool dining room floor. He sits with one leg bent to the left and the other under him, a position that looks extremely uncomfortable to me and one I definitely cannot replicate, but one he's been happily sitting in since he could crawl.

Last week, W took his first string of steps. He'd already taken a series when his parents were around but I hadn't been there and I pressed play on my video recorder just in time to capture him determinedly propelling himself forward across the living room carpet and onto the tile floor. After more than 10 steps, the momentum paused and after a moment's hesitation he plopped down to rest. We all cheered and clapped for his achievements.

D, on the other hand, is a little more cautious. He has taken more than his share of tumbles as he's been learning to move from a standing position to a sitting one and it has given him a hesitant fear of rushing forth. Though he's happy to nearly run if I'm holding his little hands, his head nearly parallel to the ground in his eagerness to move, when I let go he stops. He's taken a few steps now but is still careful to make sure he won't topple quickly.

I'd spent most of Friday and Saturday with the twins and their parents and was planning to hang out on Sunday too, but a cold most disappointingly put me in my bed all day Sunday. I knew I had a couple of very long work days coming up as we prepared for board meetings and graduation so I took the time to rest so I could build my strength back up. I missed the boys, though, as I usually saw them every day or so.

This evening, when my friend and her family pulled up to pick me to go buy groceries, I saw D standing in the back seat, his little face at the window, a huge smile as he saw me coming. I opened the back door and W sat there grinning up at me, eager to say hello. Both boys comfortably moved around the back seat between their mom and me, bouncing on our laps, eating a snack of soft bread, or laughing at their mom's funny antics to keep them amused. I treasured every moment with them but the grocery-trip was over all too soon and I was waving goodbye as I lugged my plastic bags filled with fruit and vegetables back up two flights of stairs to my room.

There's a thought that has been chasing around in my head for some time now. Children love unconditionally. When I go over to see D and W, they don't reprimand me for not seeing them for a day or more. They don't scrutinize me closely, asking me why I haven't lost weight or styled my hair in a better way. They don't sigh out loud about my clothing, saying that I should dress more fashionably. They don't demand that I entertain them with Chopin and Mozart-quality piano concertos or Celine Dion-style solos. They don't expect me to be knowledgeable about politics, the latest football match, or theoretical physics.

D and W hurry to the huge French glass doors when they know I'm coming. They crawl as quickly as they can and then press their faces to the glass, looking for me. When I come around the corner of the house and step into the balcony, their little faces light up with joy. Their "auntie" has come! I hug them each in turn, holding whichever one needs to be held, putting them in their high chair to eat lunch, or washing their face and hands after a tasty but messy lunch of rice and dahl. We play with their wooden trains or the trucks whose plastic tires have long been chewed off by their baby teeth. If it's time for a bottle, I put their bib on, quickly say the prayer I've long ago memorized before they start to fuss, and then watch as they softly fall asleep.

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these (Matthew 19:14). The disciples were confused for a moment, maybe wondering if He'd been sitting in the sun for too long, as they knew it wasn't physically possible to become like children again. I imagine that in Jesus' ministry, He experienced that feeling of being tired when you constantly have to give and give. He was healing many people, feeding them, and teaching them about God. Then the little children came to Him. They must have brought such joy to Jesus' heart because they came expecting nothing but simply loving Him unconditionally.

Though D and W are just learning to string together syllables into legible words, their hearts are speaking volumes as they totter through life. Their eagerness to love without expectations, not just me but all those who care about them, is something I want to have more of in my life. They are not afraid; they love simply because this is what they know. If I can learn to be more like them, I think it will bring joy to my Heavenly Father's heart because He loves me unconditionally with kindness everlasting. He's just waiting for me to love Him in return.

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