KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–The sound of water rushing to fill up a bathtub stopped abruptly and in an instant I heard the sound of delighted children frolicking in warm water.
Though not wanting to be a voyeur eavesdropping on the neighbors upstairs, a huge grin covered my face when I heard one of the little ones squeal, “Bubbles!”
“Yes, bubbles, bubbles,” I heard her father laugh out loud.
It was an especially lonely evening in my home, but listening to the little family in the apartment above was inspiring. My children are too old to share their bath-time giggles with me, but we still create our own special family times that leave us feeling secure and warm about one another.
Spread thin as a family these past few months, it has occurred to me that my children probably believe I am more fragile than is real. It is sweet to see their concern over my well-being. It is gratifying to realize that in this day when our culture seems caught up in a narcissistic rush towards self-fulfillment, my children take time to think of mom.
On the day my daughter returned to college after a six-week holiday break, I admit I probably felt more relief than loneliness. Within two days I was able to make several writing deadlines and still found time to teach school, gas up my car, pick up my contacts from the optometrist, and read the paper. My son, though, made it his job to see that I had a good dinner, a strong cup of tea and plenty of company while I searched for an old friend on the Internet.
Well, I never found the old friend, and Jon’s room never got cleaned out the way it should have, but still, the thought of him lying on the carpet near my computer table gave me comfort and an oddly tight feeling in my chest.
The same feeling returned when, for two days in a row, my daughter called me from college during my 10th and final class hour at school. Quickly dismissing the thought that the call really was for her benefit, I patiently listened while she gave me a blow-by-blow account of her day at college in the same way she had done nearly every day of her life from grade school and high school.
Being taken care of in this way is an incredible feeling that leaves me tearful with gratitude, but thoughtful about how “Supermom” has been relegated to the weak and the needy all of a sudden. I searched for clues in my behavior that would send lightning bolts about my sudden inability to amuse myself or take care of myself.
All of a sudden it hit. My children’s response is less of reaction to how it is, than a reaction to how it should be. Their unsolicited care of mom is a direct reflection of their years of observation of how our family works as a team and as a unit. Our empowerment of one another is as basic to our survival as is the reading of the Word and prayer is to our daily walk with God.
With Dad in Georgia, Belinda in Tennessee and Jon and mom in Kansas City, the very fiber and nature of how our family operates is changed and this change has brought on a surge of caring from those who are usually most at the receiving end.
Wow. My analysis of the situation overwhelms me and at the same time is so very poignant a picture of how our Father above shows his mercy and grace when we most need it. Sometimes when we are the farthest from him and his will, an act of grace will so catch our attention that we turn to him in our need, realizing he has been there all along and is just waiting for us.
Like the father and leader of our family, John, who is in Georgia, just waiting for the time in the near future when we will join him and complete our family, God waits for us to return to him, and to seek his face in order to complete our wholeness. While all the time we are away, he is careful to give us opportunities to see his person revealed through the Word, through the illumination of those who follow him and even through nature itself.
Those small, but significant signs of caring we begin to appreciate more when we seen them in the context of God’s great enduring love for us and how he wants us to live our lives.
Hannigan is a freelance writer and high school journalism and English teacher in Kansas City, Mo. Her husband, John, is the new minister of education/administration at Bethany Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga.