One thing about pancakes with little ones - the syrup-to-pancake ratio is unnaturally high. Smart moms pour the syrup; I believe in encouraging childhood independence, and spend the rest of the week finding little puddles of sweetness all over the kitchen table.
It was a mundane morning in which I found myself doing this very thing - wiping syrup off of the table, peeling sticky forks off equally sticky plates. The kids - fresh, morning sibling relationships and fresh, morning imaginations, both spurred on by Log Cabin fructose - these kids had all disappeared, off to the closet that had morphed into a pirate ship.
My phone rang, and I too felt fresh, visiting with a dear friend. We talked of children and germs, wondering where they got it and if they were still contagious. As only a woman can do, I held the phone and talked while cleaning, folding, and marinating chicken for dinner. As only a mother can do, I listened to both my friend, and kids somewhere in the house.
Then, I heard a small voice, crying, "Mama!"
It was not urgent and it was not a cry of pain, but it pulled me down the hall, my head crooked to the side as I walked with the phone under my chin. The friend on the line heard very little: my short gasp as I rounded the corner, a few unintelligible mumbles, then my breathless shudder.
It was over that fast.
Yet, time seemed so slow. Afterward, my body felt heavy. I sat down hard, right there on the floor, surrounded by Polly Pockets and discarded pajamas. I tried to describe the scene.
"Oh God!" I explained breathlessly. "Summer, he was hanging from the top bunk!"
My mouth goes dry, even now, thinking about it. His little three-year old body, squirming to release itself from a rope wrapped around a top bed rail. It was a blur of mother-flurry as I lifted him and released the dog leash he had hooked around his neck.
"Thanks, Mom." He sauntered out, muttering something about finding his pretend keys.
My dear phone friend had to be a mother, for she knew exactly what to do. "Hang up, Karen, and just go hold him," she ordered.
It was exactly what I needed to do. Although he wasn't so keen on the holding part, Little Man did let me hug him tightly, breathe in his little-boy syrup smell and carefully look at his perfectly fine little neck. The more I held him, the more shaky I became.
"Oh, Son," I murmured into his hair. I needed to lecture and confiscate all ropes of any kind, but for just that moment, I drank in life, pulsing through small veins, and pouring new light on my small world. Suddenly, everything seemed so focused and bright. The snow outside was blinding, the girls' laughter almost deafening. Later, I told Real Gil that my food tasted better, his pancakes sizzled more brilliantly.
Is there a more dramatic feeling than relief?
It's a rush of pleasant and dread mixed together, when the what-is mixes with the what-could-have-been. There's guilt, regret, and weak-kneed nausea, but there is also joy, plain and simple.
Better than relief was the overwhelming sense of God's grace. Would I have felt this way had our morning unfolded differently? All those days when I've asked God, "Why me?" -
Today, I asked, "Why not me?"
Why were we spared? Are we exempt from bad days?
And what about all of the other days, when I awake (perhaps a little earlier than I want to) to another day of home (perhaps a little more chaotic than I would like) and family (perhaps a little different than I had dreamed it)... On the days of mundane and routine, or on the days of sweet surprises and rich blessings, do I ask, "Why me?" What about the thousands of other days when I have had no negative reason to ask that question? When my day stretches out in a blizzard of unknown and unseen graces?
Had my morning unfolded differently, I very well could have spent my afternoon shaking my fist at God. Instead, the only posture I seem strong enough to maintain is on my weak knees. Thankful. It's revealing - the conditions I've placed on God, as if He needs to play by my rules. If He breaks those rules, He's up for a "Why me?" tirade.
There is part of me that is thankful for this Father I love, who can be approached with all of me - the honest, the angry, the downright speechless. There is another part of me that is afraid of this Father - I know He only wants what is best for me, but what if it includes something I can hardly fathom as a mother. Like a different ending to my Syrup Morning.
Does He loves us any less if the answer is "Yes" when we want a "No"? Or if our child is not spared? Does He loves us more if our child is spared? I can't believe so. He is love. All of it, all of us, all of Him.
I still don't have many answers to this deep, raw question. I still don't know why other families with bunk beds and little ones with creative minds have a different story to tell. But the closer I get to Jesus, the less important this question seems to be. Perhaps there will be a time in my life when this question will arise, yet again. Right now, however, I am almost too overwhelmed to utter the words, and in some ways, I don't want to make a theological debate out of my Syrup Morning.
Someday, I'll see it all from the other side, when time and dog leashes do not constrain. Until then, I rest in the bright, pounding heartbeat of a God who hears, sees, and today, intervened.