Monday, July 27, 2015
Like Little Children
The house was full, all our daughters (all eight, Steve’s four and my four) and most of their husbands and boyfriends arrived. Our home is too small to accommodate everyone in one room comfortably, so they spilled outside to the yard and the front porch.
Steve filled our fire pit with dry grayed wood and started the fire for s’mores; we waited for the fire to burn down to slow embers—marshmallow roasting coals. The fireflies blinked yellow blurs of light all over the yard. The vocal cicadas filled the evening with their loud voices. And my grandsons wanted me to play.
“Run, Noni, Run!” Elijah and Judah cried. Their grins wide, eyes alight, and expectancy beamed in their faces. And of course, I ran. Barefoot I circled and zig-zagged, and these little boys chased me. Their bursts of laughter only fed my energy, nourished the grandmother soul of me. Even while running I felt the joy bubble up in me.
Elijah plopped down in the grass. I asked him if he was tired, and he explained that he just needed to rest a minute. Just for a minute he clarified. I joined him, and Judah joined us. The rest didn’t last long. Little boy batteries recharge must faster than older women batteries! We were up again running through the rain grown grass. Certainly running is not an everyday event for me, but it is a freeing thing to run uninhibited and unfiltered by pretension and protocol. Finally, this almost fifty-year-old Noni had to stop. Pulling air deep into my lungs, I forced it to go all the way down.
But little boy voices shouted, “Run, Noni. Do it again.” I told the boys Noni was out of breath.
Usually and thens come to us unplanned, unpracticed, and unexpected.
Elijah came to me, tapped me on the leg, looked up at me, and said, “Noni, are you out of breath?”
“I am Elijah. Wait just a second and let me get my breath, and then I’ll run with you again.”
I wish I had the ability to stop time, to hit rewind and reverse and replay. If I did, I would watch this moment over and over again.
Elijah pressed his little hand against his mouth and then lifted that hand to me.
“Here, Noni. You can have my breath.”
He peered up at me in such serious earnestness, so generous.
Elijah offered me his breath. This little almost-three-year-old boy saw my need and put his breath in his hand and offered it up to me. I took it, took this sweet offering from his little, upturned hand. This gesture prompted Judah to offer the same.
I stood in my backyard on a warm July night, fireflies glowing, fire beginning, frogs croaking, voices blurring, and I truly lost my breath—lost it right out of my lungs. No one prompted these words or this gesture from Elijah. No one told him to do this. I watched his mother's eyes puddle, stunned and proud. His aunt's heart swelled.
Elijah wanted to help Noni, so he offered what he had. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus tells us to be like little children. Friends, if we are going to inherit the kingdom of God, we must change and become like little children.
Elijah offered his breath to me out of love and concern and the eagerness to continue to play. The sweet concern on his face caused me to be undone, to melt. Elijah’s offer prompted Judah’s offer and isn’t that the way of the kingdom of God works? Or should? Didn’t Jesus call us to offer each other our breaths when we run short? Aren’t we to share from the reserve he has provided us and offer it to others?
I stood looking into my grandson’s eyes, and his offering filled me. The pureness of it inflated my lungs and renewed my energy. I inhaled, and the new breath filled my lungs to capacity. At that moment I honestly believe I could have run a marathon. I sprinted forward and looked over my shoulder. The boys followed. I ran just ahead of them; my vision blurred by tears and my ears filled with their exploding laughter.
Two thousand years ago God knew we were running too hard, too fast, and too long. He knew we were going to be out of breath. Through Jesus he came and gave us his breath—took it right from his mouth and gave it to us, that we might inhale and live.