Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. Psalms 17:8
Seems pretty simple, this scripture I quoted from a Bible in front of a crowd the Sunday our eldest daughter was baptized. It is a tremendous symbol of our faith, being baptized, the beginning of a covenant relationship with God. The tradition at the church we attended at the time is that someone who is more experienced read a Bible passage just before you get dipped. And on this day, the more experienced believer was me.
I’d always been free-spirited. Non committal, smoking, drinking, cussing, and most certainly nobody’s mom. I ate most suppers in restaurants, or from the hot bar in Whole Foods. I took dang near everything to the dry cleaner, and the closest I got to keeping a clean house were the anti clutter maneuvers my cleaning lady needed to get busy. Then I fell in love with this guy…
Despite my shortcomings, I’d become a “mom” to this particular Apple of God’s eye not long after I began dating her dad. They had survived the death by suicide of her mother and had wrestled to come to terms with the loss of her, and the finding of one another.
Then she met me, and held on for dear life.
I was not yet sure I had the skills to raise anyone, let alone someone else’s kid. But there I was entreating God on her behalf, to keep her as the apple of his eye. What if I jinxed it? God just might hear a prayer thrown up by someone like me, and put us at the back of the line.
From then on, Apple was relentless in her pursuit of rejection. It seemed she tested everyone she came into contact with, “Is this enough to make you leave me? How about one of these? This ought to getcha….” No matter how many miserable days she spent making others miserable, the one thing she believed would make her whole was out of everyone’s reach. No one could be her mother, and she was furious. There came a day that she, my shadow, hated to be with me: only exceeded by how much she hated to leave the shadow of my wings.
So, how do you confess to God that you have failed in doing all you can for a child you were trusted to help keep safe?
I know that you know best, and I believe you keep your promises.
I’ve gotta tell you something, though – I can’t keep mine.
The Apple of your eye is kicking my ass, without even trying.
And God’s reply was to Let Go.
And then, great day in the morning, she got sick of her damn self. With our blessing, she applied to Eagle Rock School in Estes Park Colorado, an incredible residential alternative school which, ironically, rejected her repeatedly. But, she’d had enough detentions, exclusions and dismissals, and was tired of being tired of it. She applied again. Finally, this winter, she got in, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe things could get better. We had an opportunity to forge a future, instead of making up for the past.
Her first trimester, I did not hear from her. Not even once. I did hear, through the grapevine of the regular phone calls and letters she sent others, that she was happy, and adjusting to living in community with others in a value driven environment. That’s not easy stuff. I guessed she needed elbow room, and prayed instead for her well-being.
When she got home for a break, she didn’t say a word to me past hello. She told her dad at one point that she couldn’t talk with me, embarrassed by her “pretty obnoxious” behavior before going to school. We’ll get there one day. First, she and I must acknowledge that the only way to learn to fly is by flying.
I hear that owls love their young in just that way. When the fledglings are old enough, the mother pushes them from the nest, risking their injury, and teaches them to fly. They do this via a demonstration of hopping a few yards away, and bursting into flight. The fledgling sits on the ground watching this repeat performance. Day after day, for as long as it takes, those mothers hop…hop…fly until the fledgling catches on. In the case of slow learners, mama bird sits by her owlet as it sleeps; hovering, protecting her promise to God. And then all of a sudden, the baby bird takes wing. Hop…hop…fly.
I wonder if mama owls worry for their owlets after they fly off. I wonder if they ever see them again. Does a baby owl send letters or drop over sometimes with a fresh mouse as a present?
In any case, our fledgling has returned to school, and we are grateful. Not only are we grateful to sleep at night, but we are also grateful that she is well, and safe. She is embraced by a caring community with no baggage of her loss, and no judgment of her past. Any time she wants to drop by with a fresh mouse our doors and arms are open.