Recently I began cleaning out boxes of old photos, cards, and papers. There is such a painful sweetness about looking at little faces all grown up, the penciled “I luv u momy” scrawls and handmade birthday cards offering bike shows for a gift or “brekfast in bed.”
Moms are especially blessed in that our lives “pass before our eyes” every time we clean the house. The process sparks not only memories but evaluation–a chance to think, to confess, to address, to rejoice.
We sift through books, report cards, term papers, chore charts, prayer lists, and letters. We unfold a paper found on the floor and quietly tuck it into our son’s bookshelf when we see it’s a heartfelt letter to his girlfriend, not meant for our eyes.
We find beer bottles from an unauthorized party that occurred when we went on an anniversary trip and we discover how to pray more specifically for that child.
We sweep leaves off the trampoline after the Perseids meteor shower with our nature-minded son and order a new closet door after the skateboard went through it with our more impulsive son.
We file receipts from Easter shoes that prompted tears because they were black and shiny like our dog that died; and receipts from volleyball uniforms and slippery fabric for another daughter to wrestle on the sewing machine for her first boy-girl banquet.
The procession of mundane tasks in a mother’s life also fosters a closer look –who is this child? How is she made? What are his strengths? What is he afraid of? What are her weaknesses? How do we listen better to this one? How can we best pray for that one?
But this recent cleaning was different—a time travel back through decades—and I was privileged to find this poem written by one of our precious daughters many years ago as she stood at a crossroads wrestling with how much control to give God over her life.
It comes at a perfect time.
I like it because it’s honest and wise and cuts me to the quick. It highlights the stakes. It forces us ask ourselves how small a box we’re offering God in which to put our futures, when He has no such boundaries.
I invited an artist to come to my house–“Paint me a picture,” I said. “Make it a field with flowers–Yellow, blue, and violet.” So he painted a field, just as I’d asked. And it was pretty.
I invited a chef to come to my house–“Cook me a dinner,” I said. “Make it a pasta with herbs–Parsley, basil, and thyme. So he cooked me a dinner, just as I’d asked. And it tasted good.
I invited God to come into my life–“Give me a future,” I said. “Make it a house with a family–husband, two kids, and a dog.” So he gave me a future, just as I’d asked. And it was nice.
My next-door-neighbor invited the artist to come to his house. “Paint me a picture,” he said. “Make it whatever you want–You are the master–I’ll just watch.” So he painted a picture, as he saw fit. And it was breathtaking.
My next-door-neighbor invited the chef to come to his house. “Cook me a dinner,” he said. “Make it whatever you want–You are the master–I’ll just watch.” So he cooked a dinner, as he saw fit. And it was delicious.
My next-door-neighbor invited God to come into his life. “Give me a future,” he said. “Make it whatever you want–You are the master–I’ll just submit.” So he gave him a future, as He saw fit. And it was amazing.
One day my neighbor invited me over for dinner. I looked at his painting. I ate his dinner. I evaluated his life. “I don’t get it,” I said. “I had the same artist, the same chef, the same God. Why is everything you have so much better?”
And my neighbor just smiled and nodded his head. “The secret,” he said, “is no limits.”