One crisp pre-winter morning while driving my kids to school, I did something I never do—I looked up. My mouth fell open as I discovered the pale blue sky alive with movement, thin lines and curves undulating through the air like ripples of sand created by desert winds. A great flock of birds, the likes to which I’d never seen, flew high above a barren field. I called to my children to look at the pretty birds.
“Where, Mommy? I don’t see any birds.”
I looked back up, confused at how they were missing a sky overflowing with winged creatures.
“Ooo, look, the letter “V,” my daughter called out.
Indeed, the birds were jockeying for position to form a bunch of V’s, intent on their quest for a warmer climate. But they appeared as nothing more than lines sketched by the edge of an artist’s charcoal stick, each bird’s individuality and identity completely lost from our earthbound perspective.
As we travelled, the flock descended, low enough that the shape of each bird could be distinguished. Side by side we rode, one with the avian crowd. My daughter called out again, “Yellow birds! Mommy, look at all the pretty yellow birds!” Now the birds were not, in fact, yellow. They must have been a shade of gray or white. You see, the sun was still rising, low in the sky, casting forth its golden light, bathing each bird in an aura of yellow. I opened my mouth to correct my daughter, to explain the wonders of light reflection and refraction, but how does one explain physics to a kindergartner? (Especially when physics has never been a strength of mine). This observation skipped my ever wandering brain onto the subject of truth. Truth: the birds’ feathers were not yellow, regardless of how they appeared.
My brain then briefly slipped on the slope of moral relativism. Funny how nature doesn’t seem to struggle with truth the way people do. Those birds were the color that they were. Period. It didn’t matter if I called them gray or white or fuchsia. It didn’t matter if I spray-painted them silver. My perspective, whether near or far, was irrelevant. My opinion did not change truth.
Next, I think of myself. One of the blessings that seems to have come with my age is my level of self-awareness. I pretty much know who I am and who I’m not. Others may have their opinions about me, opinions they have formed from the brief moments they have seen me with their eyes, of the brief bits of conversation or text messages we’ve exchanged. But those opinions, whether complimentary or disparaging, do not change the truth of who I am.
So then I start thinking about God, about how we mortals, drunk on our own acumen, think we can tell God who He is. We piece together all of the happy, rosy bits of various religions and philosophies, creating our own belief system, fashioning it in such as was as to legitimize us doing and saying whatever the heck we darn well feel like.
But the truth is those birds were not yellow. Truth is your opinion of me will not change who I am (though I confess, it may make me cry). Truth is God is who He is, regardless of our own vain fabrications.
“Slow down, Mommy! We’re losing them.”
I snapped out of my philosophical reverie. Good thing, too. My brain was starting to cramp. I looked back out my window and indeed, the birds were slipping behind us. And then my brain shifted to parenthood— the sports, meal preparation, laundry, homework, dishes, repeated lines of “how many times have I told you not to.” We parents grumble and moan and groan about the day to day, lost in the blindness of the mundane, forgetting this truth: We’re losing them. In the scheme of our entire lives, the time we have with our little ones at home, needing us, wanting our undivided attention, is so very small. In a blink they become teenagers and the center of their universes shifts from us to their peers and we will in turn beg for their undivided attention.
We cannot fight the clock. Time continues whether we want it to or not. Another truth which cares not of our opinion of it. While we cannot slow the clock, we can slow ourselves, cross a few things off our list that really weren’t that important to begin with. Right now I have three children who still like to curl up in my lap, who love when I read to them, who beg me to pick them up and spin them as fast as I can. My one son just walked into the kitchen and, while I’m in the middle of making dinner, he asked me to pick him up. He’s getting so big, it makes my back hurt. But you better believe I pick him up. Every single time. Without fail, he puts his head on my shoulder and coos, “Mama,” softly, for my ears only. Worth the slightly overcooked dinner in the pan and the price of a chiropractor visit any day. And yeah, that’s truth. J--Suzi Ryan