Photo Credits: Darcy Donovan
I love watching my kids’ growth. It’s so tangible and obvious. We can mark it on the wall, measure it by outgrown boots and pant legs, hear it in new words and phrases. The visibility of their growth is contrasted by the invisibility of mine, and I am impatient for all of it.
Last week, we went to visit friends who live close to the Great Sandhills. The kids complained on the twenty minute drive, about how long it was taking, and how it was too cold to play in the sand anyway. It would have been easier to head home, but we kept going. I pointed out hay bales and distracted them by having them pay attention to the slow changes in the landscape from prairie into brush and sand.
When we had parked and the kids caught sight of the massive dune, their eyes got big, and they ran ahead of us. Our friend, Beth, pointed out a tree, maybe thirty feet tall, about forty feet in front of the dune, towering over it. “If you come back in thirty years,” she said to Robyn, our oldest daughter, “the dune will have totally covered that tree.” The words might have been lost on Robyn, but they were rolling around in my heart as we took off our shoes, and climbed a miracle.
Charlize, the baby, dug her hands into the sand, not remembering it from last summer, shrieking with the delight of its escape from her palms when she lifted her fists and released them into the wind. She scooted down the edge of the hill like she was sledding, and reached for my arms after discovering that climbing was way more work than coming down.
After racing his dad to the bottom of the hill, Eliot fell dramatically into the sand in front of me. With a huge and breathless grin, he looked at me with big serious eyes: “You know how I said I did not want to come, Mom? I am really glad you made me. This place is awesome!”
Knee deep in the sand, with it working its way into my pockets and hair and mouth, I was overcome with gratitude for creation, and how it fills my soul, even if lots of it makes me sneeze. (I keep hoping that heaven w
ill bring an encounter with nature beyond allergies.) This place is awesome, mighty and fragile, formed and reformed by the wind, day after day. And we have the privilege of showing up to witness its glory. Who am I to be so graced?
I looked up at Beth, who was sheltering her baby fast asleep on her chest, and looked down at the tree beneath us. “What if our spiritual growth is a lot like the movement of a sand dune? We can feel the wind against us, mostly by our resistance to it, and its only after we look back thirty years that we can see how truly far we have moved?”
The Creator of it all is still creating – my kids, the sand dune, and me. In some moments, we can see the ridges and patterns forming in the sand if we slow down to look close enough, and we can just as quickly dive into the sand to make our own marks. The wind blows steadily over the sand either way, gently and slowly moving a mountain a few imperceptible feet every year.
And how the Spirit moves over me the same way. How slowly, moment by moment and day after uneventful day, God is wearing down my hard edges, softening my resistance, edging me forward. When Robyn was first learning to talk, I corrected her baby sentences, impatient for her to get it right, afraid she’d carry bad habits into adulthood, and mostly not wanting for her faults to reflect badly on me. Looking back, I am sorry I did not say more of those funny words with her, hold on to them for a few more days or weeks. I rushed the growth with a violent wind.
Without any conscious effort on my part, this one tiny aspect of my parenting has been reshaped. The growth is visible only in hindsight. Eliot loves to say how he very likes his snack, and I’m beaming at him every time he says it, my eyes filled with tears at the miracle of his learning language. Robyn has an impressive vocabulary, in two languages, and my accidental growth seems to be fostering her curiosity. When I am not correcting her, she is eager to ask me questions. And the whole family is totally enamored with each and every new word that Charlize says for the first time.
How often I resent the wind and curse the sand, only to realize later that the very circumstances I was resisting are the most awesome places of growth. I am so glad He moves me, even when I think I do not want to go. Slow and steady is the speed of spiritual growth, and the Spirit moving…me.