When you’re knee-deep in children, time is a shapeshifting enemy: it stretches to absurd lengths during times of trial, obscuring the future with its enfolding weight, then leaps forward just when you want it to linger. And that pace accelerates exponentially with each child, each child a new facet in the kaleidoscopic turns of life. As you hear them play with words too big for their gap-toothed mouths, as you flip back wonderingly through newborn photos and store away outgrown shoes, you know deep and sudden– and if you don’t, every grandma at the grocery store will remind you– that their seasons are rushing by. Their schedules, interests, fears and abilities metamorphose without warning. Before you catch a grip on the current phase you’re full steam ahead in the next.
(Did we do that right? Did I miss something? Well, no way to return or reshape it now. Onward and upward!)
I think it’s wise to intend structure for each season with my children. I don’t want to simply throw up my hands, hoping it will all shake out. Yet those structures need constant upkeep, revision, pruning. If not, they become burdensome rather than life-giving; like a hermit crab’s too-small shell, they no longer support the family but begin to squeeze it to death.
This holds true for yourself just as much as your small people. Because you, too, are growing and finding your way. What you did so regularly for five years is suddenly out of joint with today; the rhythm of your life shifts, slow but sure as the tide. And it’s okay. To latch on to one turn of the kaleidoscope and shout, here I pin my identity! Here my friends, here my home, here my self forever! seems like a sure recipe for disappointment. Few things, you know, are worthy of a stake in the ground.
It’s hard, because wouldn’t it be nice to pick the framework of your life for the next fifty years? You’d know exactly in whom to invest. What to plan for. You could have a sort of relational insurance. And yet this is not the way God leads us. That’s it, there’s the glory and the challenge: he leads us. Instead of giving us a precisely drawn map, he gives us himself. So much better, so much sweeter, but yes, so much more demanding of our faith.