Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jo, the barbarian

"It took me a little while, but suddenly I saw it clearly. I was experiencing a barbarian invasion. Mariah's heart was beating to the rhythm of the heart of God. And her dreams were way too raw for me. I didn't see it initially, but I was trying to civilize her instead of unleashing the untamed faith within her. After all, I'm her dad. It's okay if I live a life of irrational faith and breathtaking adventure. I want something different for her. I want her to have security and safety--you know, a predictable, boring, mundane life where I never have to worry about her again. In that moment I realized Mariah would have none of that. For her there is only one path. Even at twelve she has already committed to it. Be still my heart, but my daughter has chosen the barbarian way out of civilization." Erwin Raphael McManus, The Barbarian Way

In just a handful of days, my Jo is heading on her biggest-yet God-led adventure: Nepal. Yes, yes ... she's already logged a few mission-miles under her belt. But this trip, this one ...

Jo will be thousands of miles away from me. For the first time ever.

And yes, Mr. Blandings will be at her side the whole time. And yes, we have friends who will surround her, and guide her, and remind her that while some things are acceptable in the U.S., while in Hindu-oriented countries, nice girls just don't.

She is excited. I imagine that the flush of her cheeks is close to what we'll see on the cusp of other important events. Going off to college. Trying on her wedding dress. Sharing the news of a baby on the way. That kind of rosy-cheeked joy brings me the sweetest pain in my heart when I see it.

This is what it means to give your children wings, and hand them back to God.

Because while she's gone, things will happen. Little things, but things I will not see. Jo will be overwhelmed by the chatter of a language that her ears can't interpret. She will delight in new sights and sounds. She will sleep lightly, unable to release the tensions of the day in a sleeping bag on a foreign floor. She will eat foods that she likes and foods that she wishes she could politely pass on, but will not for propriety's sake.

I will not be there.

I will be here, minding boys large (ish) and small. I will wash clothes and mend socks and cook meals. I will write, and read, and knit. I will live the life that I call my own.

The most awfully beautiful part of homeschooling is that I miss nothing. Day in and day out, I miss nothing. Perhaps that makes it all the more bittersweet to send a beloved child off on an adventure of their own? I don't know. But for me, the closeness begets a sense of comfort and joy that I hold on to, knowing that it's season is all too soon coming to an end.

I have made no mention of any of this to Jo. I think that sometimes the worst sin we can commit as mothers is to clip the wings of joy as they sprout in our children by saddling them with a bit of our own longing. Instead of holding her closer and whispering, "Come back to me safely. Don't be gone long," I smile at her as we stand side by side at the kitchen sink and say, "What an amazing adventure God has planned for you! I can feel it!" Instead of biting my lip and telling her how very empty my days will feel without her smile in the sea of faces around me, I kiss her forehead and let her know how delighted her father is to have her as a traveling companion.

On Monday, I will drive my traveler to the airport, drop them at the curb, and drive away. I will catch sight of Mr. Blandings in my rear view mirror, and as always, my heart will swell with pride and love and longing even as a prayer escapes my soul. To have him far from me is a thing that the Lord has asked of me as his wife, and while it pulls at the edges of my most vulnerable places every time I see him off on another calling, I have learned that God is trustworthy and true. My husband comes back to me when his work is done--no matter how dangerous a place he ventures in Christ's name.

But this time, I will see Jo's tall, thin form beside him. She'll have her oversized pack on her back, her beloved stuffed dog under her arm and her iPod headphones strung around her neck. Her posture will be bursting with the tightness and expectation of one about to embark on something beautiful.

I will cry.

Because this is what I have longed for. This is what I have begged of the Lord since, literally, the day I took Him into my heart and asked Him to rule my life. Make these children yours. Call them. Give them no fear. Use them.

Lives worth living, Lord. That's all I ask.

Jo is answering the call. She is only 12, but she is on fire. She sees no reason that her age should stop her from being a tool in the hands of Yahweh. If she has anything to say about it, it won't. Jo has no use for neat, sweet girls who sit under their mother's skirts and wait for Prince Charming. Jo wants to tell people about Jesus. As she reminds me almost daily, the people we walk past in the library may just be going to hell. It's worth the awkwardness or the discomfort or the danger to introduce people to God.

And I--her mother, the one who held her as her first breath filled the lungs the Lord created in her--will rejoice in that passion, no matter how much I want to hide her away under my skirts and keep her to myself. Because God is going to use this girl. She will make people stop, think, and ponder anew who this man Jesus is. She's already doing it.


ThyHandHathProvided said...

Oh, Mary Grace, your emotions spill through the screen. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family while they travel. Your daughter is going to lead an amazing life, I can feel it.

TOSHeidi said...

Wow! How proud you must be of her! Only 12 years old and heading off on her first missions trip - amazing! I feel for you - letting her go - but it sounds like God has great things planned for THIS GIRL!

喜早 said...

人生最大的榮耀,不是永遠不敗,而是屢仆屢戰 ..................................................

robyn said...

Wow. Just beautiful.

Michelle said...

Your courage is inspiring! Thank you for setting an example of how to raise children who are genuinely on fire for the Lord!!!

Sarah said...

Wow! How inspiring, it gave me chills! I have two small girls and I pray they will have that passion too some day. You have a lot of courage though, to be able to let her go. (I've been reading for awhile, but just had to de-lurk for this one.)

The Hayes Zoo said...

MG - once again your words bring good tears to my eyes.

You will be in my prayers - as will Jo.

Camille said...

I will add her to our prayer basket ~ God will give the grace needed for you all! Day by day and moment by moment ~ thanks for sharing your heart with us once is lovely to "hear" you!


Kate said...

Our daughter (now 32) and her family are missionaries in Chad, Africa. Although I miss them terribly I know there is no safer place than in the middle of God's will.

Wendy said...