When there were two pink stripes on the pregnancy test that culminated in Cameron, I started praying Five Big Prayers. I started praying them when we fell pregnant with Scott. I’m still praying them.
Number Two on that prayer list is: Marriage Partner and Godly Friends.
I get that marriage might not be God’s will for our boys. But they do talk about it a fair bit.
I heard Scott telling Cam once that he wanted to marry [a girl we know]. He said, ‘When I’m big I’m going to buy a caravan and go fetch her.’ Scott also regularly proposes marriage to me, even though he doesn’t yet own that awesome classy love caravan, and even though Murray keeps explaining that I’m taken. Last night, Murray was discussing with Cam how he can’t keep asking for Milo milk in bed, because, TEETH. Murray said, ‘You can’t still be drinking Milo milk in bed when you’re 35.’ Cam said, ‘What if my wife lets me?’
I pray for my one-day relationship with those future wives – that I’d read them right and love them well and be a soft, safe place for them. I pray for their parents. I pray all sorts of things for girls who may or may not yet have been born.
Like, I pray that they would be thin, and successful.
We live in a fat, flourishing world that needs to be thinned out some. Like how you would thin out a veggie patch to make space for everything to grow. Like how little Mary Lennox instinctively cleared tangles of grass so that the daffodil shoots could reach for the light, in The Secret Garden.
In his book, Sabbath, Wayne Muller writes,
Thinning is … making space for life. We plant so many seeds, and they seem so small, so benign, they take up hardly any space at all. But everything, as it grows, needs space. Children, a home, a career, a project, a hobby, a spiritual practice, everything needs space, and everything needs time. And as each grows, each one takes from the other, until nothing grows beneath the surface, it is all foliage and greenery aboveground, and no nutrition beneath. Sooner or later, it all withers from lack of nourishment.
I’m so bad at this. I need to be a much thinner wife and mom to model this for my boys. I need to not crowd our lives with things and stuff and busy-busy all teeming for headspace and heart space and leaving us confused and exhausted and unable to find the wonder and the wisdom.
Then there’s success.
For Jesus followers, this is a lifelong aspiration towards what Henri Nouwen called downward mobility.
Nouwen was once invited to the White House. Hilary Clinton had been reading some of his work on gratitude and forgiveness, and he was asked to come and provide counsel during tricky times.
While he sympathized with the Clintons’ sorrows, and while a White House invitation seemed to be a recognition of the importance of spiritual matters, he nevertheless sent his apologies… ‘I don’t want to be the court chaplain,’ he told me. ‘I am here with Adam, my disabled friend. There are others who can go to the White House. Adam needs me.’
That’s downward mobility. And a kind of crazy classification for success? Yet success by God’s definition is a lowering – not a climbing of the ladder. Going to the White House is not always wrong, but we’re to be sure that we’re living out our gifts in a way that makes us more and more like Jesus who was certainly over-qualified to wash feet but did it anyway, with great love. Nothing is beneath us. People who really realise that are the kind of humans we all love best.
‘Love never fails,’ writes Paul. Bill Hybels points out that love never fails, so love works every time. Love is always successful. Love never leaves the heart that loves or is loved, the same. It changes us and others. Even if the shop attendant glares or grunts at your kind hello, his heart is surely better affected, even if unwittingly, than if you’d glared or grunted or simply ignored. Love is our highest success, and the success that is guaranteed to outlast every other success.
We could pray for us, and we could pray for our sons and our daughters-to-be, that we and they wouldn’t waste a chance to clear the trappings, and to love, today and in the future that beckons us to be brave.
. . .
Friend, strength for this first week of the year. Strength for the days you don’t really feel like being a grownup. I’m cheering for us both!
Photo credits: Deryck and Margie Smith