Sometimes we have to look back.
We have to look back to see just how far we’ve come.
Sometimes the only way to know we are walking this path well is by looking back at the times we couldn’t see the stretch of road before us.
We have to look back at faded footsteps to see the lifting fog. Only then can we see this dimly lit world through different eyes…
I remember the splintered, worn deck that wrapped around and fed into the yard. This yard teeming with little children. Running wild, all exuberance. Fingers sticky and dirt-stained, eyes peering curiously into mine.
Giggles and shy grins bashfully covered by these small tender hands. Their arms couldn’t be satiated with enough hugs. It was as if they knew the next time would be quite a while. I was seventeen. This was a children’s shelter in my hometown. I volunteered for a time. I don’t remember if I saw them again.
I remember the old wooden cribs. The kind of wood that lost its shine years ago, if it ever had any shine to begin with. The cribs were shoved into a corner. There were just so many of them. Crying babies reaching up. Small toddlers with smudged faces prying at my hands.
I sat in the yard and the brave ones clamored for a snuggle. So many kids. I was eighteen. This was a home for children in my college town. I volunteered for a class. I was silent on the ride home. I never saw those faces again.
I remember the way she smiled at me. She was eight-years-old. Her sky-blue eyes shone beneath the blonde silk of her hair. Her mouth curled the way it always did when she had something to tell me. She told me about the day it happened. The day her mother went to the store and she stayed home with her older and younger brothers. They were three, four, and five-years-old. They heard the blast of the shotgun. Only her older brother went in to see what Dad had done.
They waited on the driveway for Mama to come home. She could barely remember her dad. I was nineteen. She was a little sister to me at the boarding school ranch where I worked my summer job. I kept in touch with her for as long as she would. Her mother often told me what it meant to her. I was twenty-eight when I discovered the pain never left her alone. She went just like her father. She was only seventeen, and her name was Faith.
Where was my faith?
I remember his young face, dark against the crisp, white hospital pillow. He giggled when we joked, trying to remember anything that may have happened yesterday or the day before that. The memories were starting to return. I asked him if he remembered what happened.
The curly hair was just starting to grow back on the left side of his skull. That one spot sagged slightly as a reminder that the surgeries weren’t over. The skull had to be replaced. A scar zigzagged across the side almost resembling a part. It was where the bullet pierced his nine-year-old mind and exited without a care to the damage it left behind.
They asked him several times if he remembered who had done this. His dark eyes clouded as he shook his head,
We hung out together sometimes for a little while after therapy was over. It was a few weeks and tears began to fall. I hugged him and prayed. I knew there was a Father somewhere listening to him.
I had no idea.
Where was my faith?
I remember the bow of his perfect lips and the most beautiful face I had ever seen. I was thirty and he was my first-born.
I remember the faces of each one of my six beautiful babies as they came into this world. And my heart burst beyond any beating it could contain.
Isn’t this the way it is with mothers?
It was years later, when my oldest asked me,
Who is God?
The pat answers just weren’t enough this time. The truth? I didn’t know the truth.
Where had my faith been?
Somewhere between dimmed memories of conversations into dark nights. The words I whispered to Him as a child. I knew He was there. I just did not know Him.
Who is God, Mama?
My five-year-old whispered from the perfect bow of his lips.
I leaned into his soft blonde wisps and murmured words that would change the rhythm of these beating hearts,
Let’s find out together…
I remember all of their faces. And I remember their names.
I have to stop on this path. Stop for just a moment to look back at the faces I’ve passed. These young faces. The arms that have wrapped around my neck hoping for someone who could make this whole place make sense to them. And I couldn’t. Because it didn’t make any sense to me, either.
But He is relentless. And I fall to my knees in thanks. I look into the six beautiful faces I rise with every morning and thank Him for never stopping.
Because He never stops. He pursues us down our path and when we stop to breathe it all in…
We find He has been walking with us all along.
But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.