“The first impression of [Israel] was of the strangely small scale of everything. But before nightfall one came to realize that this is an intrinsic part- that God wants to show us nothing is great or small to Him who inhabited eternity in its dimensions of space as well as time. It is a pivot land – and pivots are apt to be small things in the eyes of those who do not understand their meaning.” – Lilias Trotter (From A Blossom in the Desert, page 203.)
You’ve heard the phrase, “turn on a dime”? Well this time, I turned on a quarter. Blame inflation. It was a while in coming. The quarter, I mean. Actually, it was twelve days ago that my son lost it. No, I take that back; he knew where it was. He just couldn’t get it. It was inside his body. It stopped briefly in his throat, which took years off my life. (Don’t you hold your allowance in your mouth when you wrestle with your brothers?) But then it passed more calmly into his stomach. It took a leisurely stroll though his intestines. At some point in the last week, it exited the premises. I missed it. Never has twenty five cents been so anticipated. (Except perhaps when one of my kids is expecting the tooth fairy’s inaugural visit.) Since it made it successfully though the esophagus, I had decided it didn’t necessitate an Emergency Room visit (I try to save those for brain infections.) But, like any parent with wi-fi would have, I googled possible scenarios. Apparently my five year old isn’t the first to swallow a quarter and forget to chew it first. Some people said it would pass harmlessly along its way. Unless it didn’t. So we waited.
It’s not the first time a child has swallowed something undigestible (other than bubblegum, red dye #40, and good old fashioned dirt). Ben swallowed my earring when he was ten months old. But he was wearing a diaper, so checking for a diamond in the rough was a bit easier than with five year old Henry. That was interesting.
I finally called the doctor. He recommended an x-ray. So I trooped all six kids over to the health center, pushing wheelchairs and double strollers across the parking lot against a biting winter wind. Half a dozen hands smashed the automatic door opener buttons repeatedly until the security guard gently pushed his from inside. We know how to make an entrance. I had visions of Child Protection Services storming the double doors behind us and commandeering my children from the unfit mother who feeds her kids pocket change. Thankfully, it was fairly quick. We escaped before they arrived.
But driving home, I reflected on the scene. Who could have thought this would be my life? I remember being 18 and halfway around the world in college, slightly chubby from having just discovered Nutella, wondering what the future would hold. The wife of one of the teachers prayed with me one evening. Afterwards, she described a little rowboat tied up to a dock. It pulled against the ropes that held it, but couldn’t leave with the outgoing tide. Not yet. I was nonplussed. Was that my life? I wondered what I had to do to get free from the ropes. I was ready! Why couldn’t I go?
For years, I realized, I had been waiting. Waiting to attain, to grow up. Waiting for the future. But I didn’t need to wait anymore. (Except for bedtime. Always.) Like many women, I’d been raised with the expectation I would “do something” with my life. Wife and mom might be some my hats, but not the only. Why settle? I could be woman of consequence. I could have a full, meaningful life. I could effect many lives as a teacher, a journalist, a nurse, or a missionary.
But here I was looking for pocket change in the nether regions of my son’s gut.
Here I was driving a rusting Yukon brim full of car seats and a wheelchair with light-up wheels.
Here I was explaining fractions and proper nouns around the dining room table and trying not to cry over spilled cheerios and milk.
Here I was, wife and motherhood overflowing the twenty four hours of every single day.
And I realized as I left the x-ray building with my ducklings trailing behind, that here, right where I was, I was doing my life’s work. My magnum opus in puddle boots. This work, no matter how menial, tedious, and sticky, was my greatest accomplishment. Sure, I could do other things, but nothing of greater consequence or longer lasting effect. I wasn’t waiting for the big purpose of my life.
I was living it.
In waiting for a quarter, I realized I didn’t need to wait anymore. I was no longer tied to the dock. My little ship had sailed. (Actually, it was rowing across choppy waters breathlessly, but definitely going somewhere.)
I shouldn’t despise the days of small things. Turns out they’re the pivotal days of my life.
Hope no one has to swallow anything bigger for me to learn the next lesson. This could get expensive.