I wonder how I would have been today if my children had not come home last night. If the British Airways flight they were on had been blown up by terrorists, or if there had been a technical failure in the engines, or whatever. In some ways the possibilities of what could have happened are endless. I know Uganda well enough to be amazed that “nothing” amiss happened to them in their months away. They weren’t robbed, they didn’t lose their passports, their money, their camera, any of their possessions. They had the usual inappropriate requests from Ugandans, and all the stuff that goes with being white in Africa, and with being pretty young women who are white, etc. But all their connections went smoothly, they were blessed by friends and acquaintances, and they blessed others. People were sorry to see them go. Their reconnection with the land of their childhood, their former home, their childhood friends, was a fulfilling and enriching and empowering experience. A great adventure. And now they are safe at home, warm and snug in their beds, and I have a grin from ear to ear, and great peace in my soul.
I am so blessed. I am rewarded for my faithfulness as a mother, my trust in letting them go, my belief in their capacity to cope, my expectation of God’s provision for them and their growing trust in and connection with Him. But still, it is all about God, all about His faithfulness in this time, these relationships, and His purposes in their lives and ours. But it might not have been so. I could have been like the mother of one of the soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Her baby was only a few years older than my babes. Why should it be okay for me, and not for her? Do I love my children any more than she did hers?
And what about my rejoicing in comparison with the father of the prodigal son? Is mine more or less because my daughters have not been prodigals? They have been wise with their money, and plan to pay back their portion of the cost of the trip. Their choices about relationships have been mature and chaste. I do not know the grief of parents over “wayward” children, doing drugs or sex or “getting into trouble”. That reminds me of my horror struck reaction to an interview on CBC in their series on kids and school. A parent was describing the experience of witnessing his daughter’s rebellion and how it alienated him from her. My immediate reaction was that he was the one with the problem. He had no admission that his part in their family system might have contributed to her choices. No recognition that there but for the grace of God he might have gone. No looking at the possibility of his own addictive choices, whatever they might be. I was enraged at him, and filled with compassion for his daughter.
I think, if you are a mother or a father, you join with me in the intense inner joy of being a parent, an acknowledgement that you didn’t know fear or joy before being a parent like you do now. It reminds me of the words of the mother in “What Every Girl Wants” who said to her ex-husband, played by Colin Firth, who, having just discovered he had a daughter, was full of anxiety about her. She said “It never ends”. (How I appreciate the honest human truth in so many movies that have bits that can be offensive to fastidious uptight Christians!) And how unnatural it would be to sit in judgment instead of reaching out. I think most of us know what it is to feel we would die for our children, that we could not live with the guilt of causing them to stumble, or making them feel rejected. Can a mother forget her child? It is as if they are carved on the palms of our hands.
As I waited for two hours at the airport, watching every face that came around the corner of the arrivals concourse, witnessing the joy of many reunions, my eyes fixed on the spot where I would suddenly spy my babes, I kept thinking of that father of the lost son, who, when his son was a long way off, ran to meet him. There was nothing in that moment except his relationship with his son. Nothing else mattered. And when my girls finally appeared, from the other side because they had insisted on declaring all their sweet gifts from Uganda, they looked so amazing, so grown up and lovely. I could not believe they were mine. These were the babes that came out of my womb.
My heart is rejoicing today. The relationship with my children is teaching me about the power and intensity of love, its fierce devotion and all encompassing reality. And how wonderful to know, from reading scripture, and knowing that story, that God’s love for my daughters, for me, and for each one of us, is just as intense, just as specific and powerful. No wonder we can sing “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell”. I thank God today not only for the safe return of my children, the joy in their goodness and blossoming beauty and faith, the bright hope for our future days together, but most of all for the reminder this relationship and experience gives me of His intense love for and joy in me, and all His children.