Louisa was hiding under a blanket on the couch. “Where’s my Weezy? Where’s Weezy?” I called from the kitchen. She giggled. I came in and tickled the foot that was sticking out. I scooped her up: “Weeza!” And in a moment, looking into her eyes, I remembered how impossible this moment seemed four years ago. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have this snapshot then? Wouldn’t I have slept better? My God …”
But if you zoom out from her hazel eyes, her messy hair, the view includes so much more that would’ve been out of context. The joy I’d have felt over seeing the baby the doctor said I’d miscarried would’ve morphed into vertigo. Even the bookshelf just behind her would’ve been discombobulating: all that Fear of Beggars and Desert Fathers business? What?
And scoot the camera back a bit more: the window — that wouldn’t have been right. The neighbor’s house — it would’ve been all wrong. Where were the tacky wooden Looney Tunes characters on pegs in the grass? Where were the century-old story-and-a-half houses?
Had someone really shown me this happy snapshot in 2011, I would’ve fallen over dead to not recognize the view. Picture the work you’d have to do to explain to someone their future — how many mini steps you’d have to skip before they passed out cold. “The baby! You have her. Oh, that? Yes, you move — but it’ll be beautiful! You’ll be happy!” — you would’ve gotten that far, and then I’d be on the floor, weeping over my Oshkosh, my laundry chute, and my deck.
What’s outside my window today looks nothing like our block in Wisconsin. The only constant: above our heads, that unyielding, vague gray sky — not the marble-blue of summer with its puffy clouds in motion. Instead a veil, protecting us from both feeling time pass quickly (I have to pick up Louisa from day care in 5 minutes – how is this possible?) and yet, weirdly, from feeling that we’re in motion, that the world is indeed spinning beneath us. I think about that a lot: we stand still but the sky still moves, even when we can’t see it.
And more details would’ve heightened my misery: the 2015 calendar full of things like “Dave working at MSU game,” “book deadline,” “preach”; “Violet’s field trip.” The big table Dave made. The family devotional on the table. The Star Wars GoGurt in the fridge. No, I wouldn’t have understood.
I’d have fallen over. And that October sky’s gloom, gloomy gloom.
No, there’s a reason God doesn’t tell us. We couldn’t handle not to see all those small steps, all the beautiful and painful things in between.
I’m back in the Old Testament stuff, all the rules and God not looking like a guy you’d want to spill a glass of milk around. I know how it ends (Jesus, dragons, etc.), so I’m not terribly nervous about this, but I’m struck by a few things anyway: the Israelites didn’t know exactly where they were going when they left Egypt — I always, always underline that. Yet God keeps saying, “Do not be afraid.” I underline those verses, too.
(… In the next breath after he smote someone, even (Joshua 7 and 8:1). “Don’t be afraid! Or else!” I digress.)
But God kept saying this other thing: “Be careful not to forget the LORD, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.” He says it again and again — in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and that page-turner, Leviticus. I’ve underlined them all: this remembering-you-were-slaves business is serious. It’s even in the Ten Commandments: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.” (Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance is a convicting read on that.)
God doesn’t say, “Look, here’s the ten-year plan for you, Joe, Mo; gather around and have a look-see.” He just says “Remember all I’ve done for you people. You were slaves. Now you’re not. You can trust me.”
I’m reading it in a burlier, manlier voice than is probably biblical, but as I sit here, two-thirds done with the book I’ve wanted to write all year, doing the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life, I’m struck with a mourning, almost. It’s almost over, and then what?
And I’m also noodling over all these other things: Dave and I walked into Mt. Hope STEAM magnet school Monday, and we said “Can we help?” And they said, “Heck yeah.” And the school’s in Lansing’s district and my kids are in Holt’s. And articles keep running in the newspaper about schools, and they make me so angry. I want to shake someone: can’t you see? Can’t you see what you — and I — are doing?
This is more than a what-does-it-all-mean things. This is the ending of a chapter I really, really loved, and asking “I wonder what’s next, and what I’m doing here.” Again.
Remember who you are, and what you mean to me, God says. Remember where you were and where I’ve brought you. Remember you’re mine. Now come along. No, I will not tell you where. “Come and see.” No, we’re not there yet. Quit asking. Every time you ask it takes us five minutes longer. Have a fruit snack.
Over here, eyes on me.
*When Alice, my oldest, was learning to read, she pronounced “Ugh” in books as “UG.” She still says “UG,” and I cannot correct her. It’s fabulous.