My mom would say that I was born with an insatiable desire for authority. It is indeed plausible that I came from the womb giving out instructions, which were falsely interpreted as the sweet sounds of a mad baby. And, in retrospect, I can see now that Sarah committed herself to the same course before she took her first breath. The night before she was born I had a dream that the baby was a girl (we had chosen to be surprised) and that as we sat around the hospital room, debating names, the ‘baby’ walked in. Although I was confused as to how she was already an adolescent and we hadn’t even been discharged, I gathered my bearing and told her that we had chosen her name. She replied, “I already have a name. Can I have the keys?” What I have now come to interpret as a prophetic vision was dismissed as a funny dream resulting from a cocktail of pregnancy hormones and the magical combination of trans fats and sugar made with love by the folks from Hostess. It seemed silly. Then we got to know our child.
Recently she was bossing her brother up and down the hall and I felt the need to intervene. “Sarah, why are you talking to your brother that way?” I asked, bent nose-to-nose, proximity accentuating my point. She leaned in, and unflinchingly answered without pause.
“Because I want to be the mom. I want to drive and I want to be the boss.”
She is a woman obsessed, her eyes fixed with razor sharp focus on adulthood and all the marvelous powers it appears to hold. Not a day goes by where she doesn’t inform me of something she plans to do when she is a ‘grown up’. And this obsession cannot be credited to a passing developmental stage. She was barely two when she looked up from her dinner one night to inform us that when she was sixteen she planned to move to Seattle, live with uncle Peter, and “never come back.” My mom loves this aspect of Sarah’s personality, reveling in the sweet path of fate that bent its course the day I informed her that I would not be missing my family or sending any letters from fifth grade camp.
To further prove the point, there was a long stretch of time where Sarah was convinced she would grow into a mermaid. She would practice her siren’s song, ankles pressed together and imaginary tail fin flicking the air. On more that one occasion, other mothers asked Miss Patti, our childcare provider, if ‘that little girl convulsing in the shade’ needed help. Even the mermaid dream culminated in her departure from us. “When I grow up, and I am a mermaid, will you carry me to the sea?” We promised we would. And so from her birth she has been leaving us.
In her focused gaze I see The Garden and feel the pain of God looking at his children, smacking their lips with the desire of power and greener grass. I understand the parental perspective to ‘Go slow’ and ‘Choose wisely’. But since Sarah and I share a prideful appetite for control with all of the fallen creation I also understand the fire in her eyes. It’s the fire I myself stoke with the combustible oxygen of tasks and people that ‘need me’. Our place in community is indeed oxygen. God did make us for communal life. But first he made us for himself- for a rich and righteous relationship with our Heavenly Father. A relationship where we crawl onto his lap, call him Abba and rest, with no concern for all of the things we vainly strain to control.
Today at lunch Moses turned to me unprovoked and said, “Mom, you’re not the boss.” I told him indeed I was. And it was a lie. Whether or not I remember in any given moment, it is still a lie. And the corresponding truth is one I should commit to live by and teach my children to covet: that we are not in control. And have no need to be. For we rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1