Maybe it was that we were both tired, our hearts drained from bearing the pain, one physical burden and the other, emotional.
Whatever the reason, tonight our spirits were raw, less entertained by our usual banter, slough scraped clear. Exposed.
It was late and I was driving Carter home. At an intersection we stopped and he pierced my thought-wanderings with this one:
Mommy, if you were here and you were lost and crying for me, I would come and find you.
I looked around, black soup of night surrounding, anonymous, strange cars circling, and I absorbed the fear a little one might have of this place, of this time.
How brave, my little boy, promises of rescue to his mother.
I thought I should reciprocate, try and channel his imagination away from fear and towards the security he deserves.
Carter, if you were here and you were lost, Daddy and I would come and find you and bring you home, too.
The promise did not redirect his emotions. Instead, he kept going, and I listened as the conditional turned to preterite, as the hypothetical ballooned into a vision of something that happened, that was happening even then.
Yeah, I was lost and I was crying and yelling your name and you were looking for me, and I was crying and calling for you, Mommy.
And all the Mommy in me wanted to squelch this thing, these exhausted words slipping out from a wounded body that needed nothing more than a warm bed. But there was a caution in my spirit, a holy pause that said I should speak nothing more than the truth, even in my comfort,
that I should not make promises I cannot keep.
So I did not tell him he would never get lost, that we would never be apart.
Carter, if you were lost, Daddy and I would search and search and search until we found you. We would not stop until we had you, baby.
But, Carter, even if I am not with you, God is with you. Always, Carter. And he cares for you and will never leave you.
It was a tough thing, stopping to sit down in the middle of his terrible fantasy, long enough to feel the presence of every mother's nightmare. My stomach churns even as I write this. But it was important to me, establishing this difference. It was important to distinguish between the stuff of prayers and the stuff of promise.
My prayer is that my sons will never get lost in a mall or a dark place, will never rebel, will never lose faith. My prayer is that they never feel the cold winds of loneliness, the harsh stings of rejection, that they never feel insecure or unsafe.
But I know this world. And I know what's not guaranteed.
So I will declare the promises, and I will plead the prayers.
I can promise that I will never stop searching, that I will always be on my way. My legs, my words, my heart, every spiritual and physical resource I have will always be running in the direction of my sons.
And I can promise that God is always with them. That he is the Immovable Constant, the Almighty Eagle under whose wings we are sheltered.
I know, too well, which protections we are not guaranteed. And I know, even better, what resurrection life looks like, deep inside the heart of a ransomed child, in the soul of one finally come home, rescued from her own lost wanderings, to the heart of Father God.
It was probably too deep, and most likely a result of ragged nerves, but we spoke truth tonight.
I pray he won't remember this conversation, that it'll be water under the bridge and we'll continue on our blissful journey of discovering the beauty and wonder of life.
But if ever a night draws near, if years pass and his heart loses his way, I pray he will hear the promise, that it will lead him back to Truth.
God is with you, Carter, and we are coming for you.
Always in pursuit,
just as Love has never stopped his pursuit of us.