Tonight as my son ran down a rocky trail at a frantic pace, slipping on loose rocks and skidding across his small, hardly firm knees, crying "I want to go home," I hurried behind, helpless with calls to calm him. I carried Thea in a pack on my chest because she refuses to walk anywhere, and how can I mind because she still lays her head against my heart while we hike. By the time I made it to the bottom of the trail, Remy was in the car seat, buckles strapped across his heaving and tiny chest. He had thick, wet streaks stamped across his red cheeks. I told him to take some deep breaths and I struggled to unhook the baby carrier across my back and rain ran at me as I ducked into the car. There was no lighting. There had been no lighting all day and there were no signs of lightning in the for the evening. Just a reprieve from the heat and grey crops of clouds that had turned quickly to rain while we were hiking. Remy's intense and almost abnormal fear of lightning I believe came from our summer in Sweden. We were at a beach one morning when a terrific storm blew across the water and over us in a matter of minutes. The thunder shook the trees and we ran through the forest to the nearest bus stop, but the bus didn't come for 40 minutes and Remy wailed under the feigned refuge of a tree branch the whole time we waited. A sincere fear overtook his three-year old body and he wept until that bus came. And even then, the bus driver was outraged that we needed to fit six strollers onto the bus (you do not break rules in Sweden) and so there were Swedish curse words and a man who fought with the bus driver. And then we made it home and I'd accidentally left the upstairs window open and water flooded the spiral wooden staircase, and then I wept because I was so tired of making needless mistakes. So, I suppose Remy's fear of lightning is somewhat founded, but it is still surprising to see the fear drive him so powerfully.
As we drove away from the trail today though, I thought of myself. I thought about how although I don't literally run down trails screaming about what I believe will crush me, I often metaphorically do. Over the last years I have done the work of unbinding my heart. Unraveling the threads that I thought it needed to stay good. I spent years in fear of where my heart might go if I untethered it. Fear that it would run from holiness and God and sacred things if I simply let it wander and explore. Fear that it might question itself beyond retention, or lose grip on awe. Looking back, I can see myself running recklessly away from what I thought would be my demise--a true walk into the darkness, away from pretense, away from cultural spirituality, away from rules and checklists and should's and shouldn't's. Steps that I originally thought were headed away from a God and away from my spiritual self, but were in fact, giving me wings to fly nearer to them.
The other night I drove in the backseat of my sister's car during a 10 p.m. lightning storm. We were out by the lake and the lightning glinted out from under the thick clouds. The clouds reminded me of a comfortable white dress a mother would wear and the lightning, without order or apology lit up the sturdy mountains that surround the valley like stalwarts ancestors.
Remy, this is what I wish you could have seen. This is the beauty I wanted to explain on the drive home today: that yes, lightning is to be feared at times, but do not run from all things that offer the possibility of hardship. There is a time to run home, back to the familiar, back to the safety of all that is known, but there is also a time to untether your heart and let it go, even far, in search of the God you want to know. If you listen to the steady and most familiar beat of your heart closely, it will not misguide you. There is so much beauty in the God you thought you had understood but you realize is so much more. There is beauty in being surrounded by the darkness as you understand that what you really know is so small, a strike of light in an expansive sky, and still your effort is loved. The lightning strike far to the southwest that lights up a mountain face you realize you've lived so close to all your life, but have never gone to. Go there, is what I want to tell you, Remy, go there and come back often to tell me what you discover, I will be gathering what I can as well.