Water splatters on my shirt as I scrub the last bits of garlic, tomatillos, and cilantro from the Cuisinart with intensity. The crunching sound of a key pushing into the lock pulls focus from the kitchen sink to the front door. I quickly turn off the flow and before I can dry soapy hands on a dishtowel, she walks into the house. Glowing.
My daughter, Murielle, is home for a long weekend from an art and design college a few states away. I haven’t heard that sound of a key turning in the lock for a month. In a matter of moments, our arms intertwine, embracing.
“Are you happy to be home,” I whisper in her ear.
“Yes, I’m so excited,” she replies.
She didn’t pack a suitcase because every garment was scrunched in the vast recesses of a laundry bag. And I’ve never been so happy to wash clothes and fold them in my life.
As she walks into her bedroom carrying a backpack of art supplies for homework, she exclaims, “Whoa, it’s so empty in here. This feels weird.”
Almost as weird as her absence on the couch, at the dinner table, and the driveway.
I swipe a soppy dishrag into stray pieces of lettuce on the counter top while she and her Dad unload the last bits of luggage from the car. Walking past the bar with a blanket draped over her shoulder, she looks at me and says, “This doesn’t need to be washed, I brought it with me because I want it to smell like home when I go back to my dorm room.”
That first weekend back into the familiar rhythms of family life, her bedroom was a sparse collection of what was once previously a mural of souvenirs from adventures; a menagerie of artwork created on weekends while sprawled out on the carpet. Decades of childhood memories had to be boxed up in preparation for a move across the Atlantic to London, England.
If I thought the absence of my first born was odd three years ago, time has sobered me into a concoction of vague grief and consolation. Now, it’s not just stretches of pavement that separate us but an entire ocean lies between our hearts.
Letting go of our children is perhaps one of the most offensive things God asks of parents. The same kind of surrender required when God decides rescue isn’t what is best for us.
When we feel desperate and out of sorts, waiting is God’s big ask. Will you wait for me to work all things together for your good or assign waiting as permission to control details into preferred outcomes?
Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, we talk to Murielle, her rosy cheeks and bright green eyes front and center on the flat screen. Her Dad and I are seated in the wing back chairs in the living room while she snuggles under that same blanket; the smell of home starkly different yet still comforting.
Holding up pieces of artwork in the camera, she reveals the latest art created in short snatches of time between long work hours and sorting laundry. She’s glowing as God’s face shines upon her.
She asks questions about purchasing new brake pads and debates on how to approach her boss about a question. And I vacillate between grief over not being present to help her practically and the consolation of maturity I witness due to the physical distance between us.
Rebirth takes place the moment you realize that what you wanted all along happened at the worst possible moment. Become helpless in controlling the destiny of your children and discover how God is helping them become the people he envisioned first. He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
“The face of Jesus is a face that belongs to us the way our past belongs to us. It is a face that we belong to if only as to the one face out of the past that has perhaps had more to do with the shaping of our present than any other.” ~Frederick Buechner