Passing By

Passing By December 9, 2020

The family of four walked down the street, not in a hurry. Like so many families these days, maybe they were making a daily habit of getting out, getting in some steps and getting some fresh air together.

“DEER!!” my son whisper-shouted from the front window. “TWO OF THEM! No, FOUR OF THEM!!”

I joined him (moving much more quickly than one should have to on a Saturday morning) and my jaw dropped. We may not live downtown, but we are not exactly in the country here. Not even the suburbs. Seeing any brand of wildlife larger than a squirrel, up this close and personal, was kind of astounding. And something about them being pedestrians on a residential street– out among the weekend yard workers and holiday errand-runners– seemed especially magical.

“Go get your sister, quick,” I said, “And see if Dad’s up.”

He darted upstairs then ran back, his sister at his heels–both of them already talking excitedly about getting a picture.

“Go get your phone!” “No, it’s not charged, go get yours!” “Where’s mom’s phone, is it closer?” And back and forth like this for a bit. All while the little family outside spied a morning runner at the end of the street. And paused. And started to slowly back away.

“No,” I told the kids. “Don’t run for the camera, you’ll miss it. They’ll be gone by the time you get back.”

Even as I said it, our four visitors started changing course. One by one, they turned and ran away; headed back for breakfast, or whatever magical activity it is that woodland creatures are up to this time of year, according to every holiday movie we’ve ever seen.

I was incredibly proud of my wisdom in that moment because, these days, it is not something that comes to me naturally. Like most folks, I’m a hot mess and in survival mode most of the time. We are surviving a pandemic, functioning in quarantine, and living through “unprecedented times,” as every institution and vendor you know is so fond of saying. With anxiety all around us, and uncertainty up ahead, it is not often these days I have a profound parenting moment- but at that window, when nature came calling for a brief moment, everything in me said “Stay. Be still.” And I listened.

We miss a lot of life running for the camera, or looking at the phone. Or thinking about the next thing (whether worried about it or looking forward to it). Or chasing things that somebody else tells us we should have. We miss so much. I may be a lousy NTI teacher (what, I give them computers and internet–what more do they need from me??) but I was not going to miss this particular teaching moment.

Stay. Be still. Breathe it in.

In these stay-at-home days, for all the stress and heaviness, there is still often joy. Of course there is. But it’s not every day that wonder happens along. In fact, in these days that feel like the same day, spinning itself out over and over again, we’ve maybe even forgotten what extraordinary feels like. We scarcely remember that something startlingly beautiful, maybe even miraculous, can pass by our door without warning.

Be ready when it does. Because it is most certainly just passing by.

Come, Emmanuel. God with us.

Be still. Stay.

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