Look… you get what we all get — a lifetime.
Just you or none of us ever get to know how long that will turn out to be.
So get to it. Because you woke up 18 this week.
You sat at the end of the table after barn chores, grinning like you were just getting stretched up for the starting blocks and the race of your life — and somewhere inside I felt this crossing of an invisible finish line, right through the stretched out tape.
And I want to go back.
I want to go back and hold the whole of you right in palm again and lay you in that kitchen scale and count your every gram, as if I could give you weight in this world.
I didn’t know that would happen until I started letting you go.
I want to go back and pull that boy with that bowl hair cut up on my lap again. Feel your chub fingers help me turn one more page, reach for one more crayon, hold my hand one more moment, and you have no idea how much I don’t care if that makes me a fool.
I want to go back to your sleep breathing on my shoulder and the way I didn’t want to move, to your bows and arrows and slung-on tool belts and well-envisioned, questionably-executed tree forts, to your buck teeth and big bravado and flipped up toilet lids and flipped out drive-me-mad attitude. I just want to go the whole ugly-beautiful way back and I want to get a do over.
Go back and shake up that 21 year old girl who brought you home and tell her that the best way to raise up a kid is to just loosen up. Nothing ever got raised up when held down tight. The Holy Spirit is a fluid grace and the wind is a carrying thing and you have to lean into it and let Him surprise if anything’s going to rise up and fly.
You grew up — and I want to go back and I want to go with you, but I can’t do either.
That’s a hard thing to sit with.
Hard to know I can’t fix any of the times I dented up your heart with my ridiculous white-knuckled steering-wheel control and big Buick idols. Yeah, you and I both remember how it got ugly and wild. You’ve got to know I’ll spend the rest of my life and pitiful wisdom trying to bang out those dents with presence and grace. Yeah, you and I both know I’ll probably make some more.
You made me get that: Grace isn’t some soft, ethereal notion. Grace is a noun, it’s a verb, it’s concrete, it’s like air. Just try living without it. Just try living without breathing. We all know how wrinkled hard lives like that are. You — you made me me breathe grace right down to the bottom of the lung. It was the only way we could live with each other. Inhaling, exhaling, giving and receiving grace.
It ended up beautiful, what all happened, and I don’t even think we realized it was happening at all.
So you’ll end up heading out.
Heading out down some back roads and long roads and roads I’d never pick for you and I wished I’d lived more backwards, backwards from the knowing that ends really do come.
Knowing that one day you’ll leave and I’ll be brave and wave. And you’ll go fall in love and you’ll feel it too and I can’t stop it for you — how a crush can crush you, how real love is never logical, how real love is always crazy love, and love is the most horrible and the most wonderful because it will make you strong and it will make you weak and it will make you vulnerable, which is the perfection of strong and weak together.
How Love will open you right up, then pull open your heart to let someone get into you and get to you and undo you and remake you and it’s everything terrifying and everything you ever wanted.
And I will nod and say yes.
That’s what you’ve done to me.
That’s what I’d go back to tell that new 21-year-old mother I was with her dangling kid, what I’m feeling as the woman falling over a finish line I don’t want to cross, what I’m saying to you, that new 18-year-old man done with being a kid — Don’t fight the hurt. Let the hurt make you real. Let go of the defenses and the shields and the tightfisted formulas for some life that doesn’t exist and give away beautiful pieces of yourself and feel the hurt, because the only way to own a life worth having is to give away your own life.
Give away the life of polished floors and gleamy sinks, of big hair and bigger bank accounts, and let love get in and mess with you and loosen you up and make you laugh and cry and really give and really hurt because is the only way to really live. Don’t waste a minute of your life on anything less than love.
Don’t waste a minute of your life on anything less than eternity.
And that’s. what. love. is.
I once heard the story of a preacher man with a PhD — whose mother died when he was two. When he was two and they were 5 kids in poor Kansas and she had grabbed hold of her husband’s hand and whispered her 5 last words: Always keep eternity before them.
Always keep eternity before them.
Think of eternity — and live backwards from that.
Don’t waste a minute of your life on anything less than eternity — and that’s. what. love is. Eternal, without end.
Let love happen to you. Don’t fight the hurt. It’s making you real.
You woke up to snow on your 18th.
“Crazy, for the 13th of May.” And you inhaled your plate of waffles, and said it again, “Snow — for my birthday in May!” And you downed the bacon and eggs I’d heaped up for you, and you pushed back your chair —
“I’ve got to go make a snowman. Before the sun makes it all go — ’cause who knows if it’ll ever happens like this again?”
And I get that. And it won’t.
And I stand at the window and watch you, the oldest, the child no more —
and your sister, the youngest, the child a bit longer, make a snowman out of spring.
And who would have known you’d be doing that on your big day when we found your gift weeks before — a watch.
A watch we had engraved with words that beg you to ask whatchya going to do with it:
“You have been given now. Romans 12:1.”
And all I can hear is the echo of a snowman melting in May: Seize the Day.
Just go do that: it’s never too late to love and there is always time to love and what else is a lifetime for?
You could see that snowman, right to the end, looking the loveliest real, giving itself away and unafraid to the sun.