Well, add this to the list of things I simply didn't understand, because although I didn't actually stand outside his classroom weeping, I felt a noticeable, physical ache in my heart all week as I left my little guy for the day and watched him wander off into his Kindergarten class.
What I realized, though, is that this is not a new thing-- this ache that feels like a tiny death is not something exclusive to moms (although it seems we get a pretty good dose of it from here on out). It's that familiar feeling of starting something new-- the ache that comes with needing to let go of something old.
I remember feeling that same feeling coming home from our honeymoon-- all the excitement of a new marriage mixed with the ache of leaving my old home and life and identity. And again with graduating college, and high school, and a million other little deaths that have died as something new is birthed. This one is bigger, though; this is actually a piece of me. Something, someone, who came from within and was a part of me and who is beginning to separate themselves from me. It hurts, as though a piece of me was missing.
I've spent the week searching and examining this loss, this ache, wondering why something so natural would feel so much like death-- something that was never meant to be. I thought of all of the times I will have to let go from here on out-- not just of these little guys, but really of all my relationships that will change and die. The morbid (but most likely realistic) thought that one day I will give anything just to have these moments back again-- this time with my boys and my hubby-- almost smothered me. It's something that we rarely ever talk about, but the truth is that most of us will (and many already have) experience great loss throughout our lives of the people and times that we love.
A strong desire to bottle up and save this moment-- this air, this emotion, the feeling of my little boys' skin pressed against my cheek, or their tiny hands reaching for mine-- came over me. If only I could keep this, save it for later, and take it out again when I need it and could appreciate it more. But then these words came to me, almost like they were rising up from somewhere inside:
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal." -John 12:24-25
These moments aren't meant to be bottled or kept, at least not as they are right now. I have to let them go; that's the deal. If I hold them too tightly, I crush these perfect gifts.
The thing is, if I were to boil down these moments or feelings or experiences to their base components, what would they be made of? I think the answer is Life. What I am tasting and feeling and wanting so desperately to hold onto is simply Life, abundant and eternal. And like manna from heaven, it is a gift that is meant to be enjoyed in the moment, but cannot be saved or hoarded. More will come-- not exactly like the one today-- but they will come, as long as I "let it go, reckless in my love." (I love that phrase-- when does God ever invite us to be reckless?)
Embrace it, recognize it, discover it, soak it in, be grateful for it, and let it go-- let it go, and more will come. But unlike manna, it only gets more real, more full, more beautiful... and one day I believe we will be able to hold it in our hands and say "Here it is-- this is what I've been aching for all along."