His feet stopped moving altogether mid-way down the hall, rubber-bottomed sneakers at a standoff with the cold terrazzo floors.
I hate school. It's too long. I don't want to go. Don't make me go! Why can't I just be at home with you?
Not exactly the words this heartsick mother of a kindergartener wanted to hear on his second day of school.
I fought back my own tears as I wiped away his.
I love you and I'll be back before you know it to pick you up. But most of all, Jesus is with you. He's your best friend and He's with you even here at school.
No He's not my best friend, he mumbled back. Ronen is. And I just want to go home and play with him.
I've picked him up two days now and he is all smiles and stories and happiness at 2:30. His teachers are amazing. He loves art and the monkey puppet who gets in trouble. He's dying to buy a tray lunch and proudly accumulates "warm fuzzies" for jobs well done. He tells me all about his new friends and how he loves them so much but he cannot remember any of their names.
It's not school that's so terrible. It's starting something new and the emotional and physical exhaustion of change that has him clinging to what he's always known and resisting this new chapter with all his five-year-old might.
He's resistant and reluctant to embrace the unknown. He's clinging to what's familiar and his fearful heart and strong will preclude his ability to let go and trust.
My tears sprinkled the asphalt as I trudged back to the van.
Lord, I prayed. Please help him. Be with him even though I can't. Work this out for him.
I fought the impulse to run back into the school and scoop him up. I wanted to kick these unfamiliar days to the curb, to keep him from any and all heartache and keep myself from it too.
As I rounded a curve of the damp sidewalk, a divine whisper floated into my mind: baby Moses.
Are you kidding me? I thought to myself, incredulous and ashamed that I'd dare to compare this little situation of mine to the severity of that story.
The whisper again: Think about how Moses's mother felt when she placed him in that basket and prayed with all her might that he wouldn't drown or get eaten by ferocious river beasts.
A tiny baby. In a basket made of bulrushes and filled in with pitch. Sent down a river. So that he might live. This is crazy.
As a grown-up, it's second nature to recall the stories that played themselves out on flannel-graph boards in Sunday School class decades ago and think to myself,
That is a ridiculous story. Why in the world would God ask a mother to let go of her child in such a traumatic way? Why would He call her to trust him against all odds and involve that poor baby's big sister in the scheme as well? Did that even happen? Why does God choose to work out his will in ways that seem completely risky and even nonsensical?
I've written before about my own faith, how it has never come naturally and how my belief surprises even me. My heart is that of a skeptic, so I do battle with reason on a daily basis.
Because He knows these things about me, He is kind to intersect my modern mind with ancient stories on an everyday muggy morning in August. His whispers to me are sweetly personal and unmistakably real. Apparently He never tires of constantly renewing my fledgling faith.
Which is why I can drop off my reluctant five-year-old one minute and ponder baby Moses the next.
Don't misunderstand. I am not trying to equate my modern dilemma with that of Moses's mama. Her infant son faced imminent slaughter. My son simply faced a too-long day at a privileged American school.
But it's the concept of trust and letting go and God's big story that I can't shake.
Release your vulnerable child to me.
Release your plan to me.
Release your expectations to me.
Release your fears to me.
As mothers, this is especially tricky. It can seem both counterintuitive and contradictory. How do we guard them fiercely but hold them loosely?
Surely this is the motherhood dilemma for all of us who believe that even though God formed our babies, He chose mothers to carry them.
Though He has a plan for our children's lives and doesn't give us the specifics, He calls us to teach and train them.
Though only He can bring about inside-out change, He asks us to be the gatekeepers of their hearts.
This divine partnership is a mystery and sometimes I feel like a blindfolded conductor with my sticks waving mightily while someone else holds the sheet music. I cannot see but I trust the One who does see it all from beginning to end.
We are called to trust and to hope. It seems a paradox that God would choose such elusive admonitions as the bedrock of our faith.
Which brings me to faith itself: Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Faith frees us to be confident because of what we've already seen but it also frees us to be hopeful in that which we cannot see. Faith invites us to revisit God's promises both for ourselves and for the world, to understand that his plan is one of both micro and macro redemption.
He is the God of each day for each child and also the God of redemptive history. And somehow, He weaves it all together, both the everyday and the epic. And because this confounds our finite minds, he lays it out in story-form through his Word and in spirit-form through his whispers.
As I read and recall these stories and his perfect faithfulness to his imperfect, unfaithful people, I find comfort.
As I experience his personal involvement in my everyday life, I find peace.
Moses became the leader of God's chosen people and this changed the world. But before that, he had a mama who was willing to let him go and trust God.
She probably wasn't thinking that this baby would go down in history. She was just an everyday mama like you and me, praying that God would save her son and spare her heart.
But first, she had to let go of the "control" she never really had to begin with.
Not unlike another mother who would come many years later, praying that God would save her son and spare her heart too. But his reply was not the same. Redemption called for a greater sacrifice this time:
Mary, I choose not to save your son, who was first my son, so that I may instead spare the world.
And that, my friends, is why we can trust. The cross breaks our hearts just like it broke the Father's heart and Mary's heart and Christ's own body. But it also grows our faith. He gave up everything for us, even his own perfect son.
Surely he can cover a struggling kid's day at school and a struggling mother's day at home.
He can cover our indecision about how we should school them.
He can cover every mistake and misstep and misgiving along the way and He delights to do it because of his great love for us.
When my five-year-old cries in the hallway and both our hearts are breaking, I know that it's a big deal. It matters to the mama who carried him and also to the One who created him.
God understands the heart of a parent because He is one.
God understands the heart of a parent because He is one.
We all play our part in this layered story, the seemingly non-descript one that we live out amid laundry and backpacks and local schools, and the sweeping cosmic one that plays out on this spinning globe across a million planes and in a million ways.
On some days playing our parts means letting go and trusting with our heads even though our hearts want to wade into the river or into the classroom or into the dorm room and pull our cryin' babes safely into our arms.
But the God of the kindergarten hallways is also the God of the ancient currents and the God who gave up his own son and allowed his own heart to break in order to save the world.
He is shaping each small soul and each grown-up mama's life into a sacred, redemptive story we cannot see.
But we can trust.