May 12, 2018

On Mountain Goats and Motherhood

It's that middle place for children, right after self-awareness and just before it's singed with pride and embarrassment... when they look back at you after a great or terrible act with a question in their eyes... "Did you see that?" Of course, it carries far past the little years, but there is this short period of time where their need to be seen is so... seen. They threw a ball! Did you see that? They pushed their brother. Did you see that? Their chubby little fingers stacked the third block and it didn't fall--- head turns and eyes grow: Did you see that?

Our seeing their accomplishment actually completes it for them... but it's more than that, isn't it? They feel at home in our gaze; They feel like a whole person with our eyes on them. To be seen is to be.

We would be fools to think that we somehow grew out of this basic human need... We've just figured out how to shade our eyes so that no one sees us looking around, trying to catch another's gaze. Did anyone see that?

We can feel this sorely (though not solely) as mothers. When every part of our body and brain and soul just needs to lie down.... and yet, we can't even remember what made us so tired.

We hurt from loving, we ache from longing, and no matter how incredibly affirmative our husbands might be--we can still feel unseen. Is anyone watching you make four lunches at once?? We may (I have) turn to sharing our moments on social media.... maybe a few hundred hearts and thumbs will quench this thirst. Maybe a comment of solidarity will pick me up off the ground--but it can't last, can it? I can't hold that person's face in my hands to fix their gaze forever.

And it's not just the hard things, like when two people need their bottoms wiped at the exact same time (always, always... law of nature!). But it's the beautiful moments, too-- when your baby hugs your leg and says, "I love you!" for the first time, unprompted. Oh, did anyone SEE that?!

And so, like I experienced as a young mother, our brains can spiral down into a philosophical depression-- Is my life of motherhood the proverbial tree that falls in the forest? Do these common, everyday moments mean anything outside of someone's gaze?

Now listen, I know and you know. I can recite with my children: "Does God see all things?" "YES! Nothing can be hidden from God." But for a long, long time... this truth was only swimming around in my head.

And then studying Job with a women's group at church, a verse actually took my breath away:

"Do you know when the mountain goats are born? Do you watch when the mother deer gives birth?Do you know how many months they must carry their babies? Do you know when it is the right time for them to be born?" Job 39:1-2

And maybe mountain goats aren't going to do the same for you, but this thought arrested me. There is a goat wandering the craggy cliffs of Montana who has never brushed the gaze of one human being. And yet-- my God watches her birth a new life.

And if my God follows the plight of this goat, how much more does His gaze intimately cover my entire life? We are seen. Hemmed in behind and before... there is Someone familiar with all of our ways; Even the darkness is not dark to Him!

And we don't have to be ashamed of this longing to be seen... it is woven into us. But the gaze that can actually complete a moment--that can breathe beauty and meaning--is the gaze of our Father.

Lift your heads up, mothers! Cry with Hagar, even in your wilderness-- "You are the God who SEES me!" Because, as with all attributes of God... His seeing is wrapped up in love. There is a kind gaze upon us. Our moments have meaning and our motherhood has meaning and we are someone because we are living under the watchful eye of Him who breathed us into life.

So ache, and be seen. Rejoice, and be seen. Long with longings too deep for words.... and know that there is One who sees what you can't even name. Run your race in the freedom of an eye fixed upon you, and have a very happy Mother's Day!

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