When I was seven my best friend was a boy named Jack. He lived up a winding road on a hill that felt like a mountain. My mom knew the passcode for the huge black gate. When the wrought iron swung open, my heart swung free. I kissed her cheek and promised to be good, then leaped from the car to my waiting friend.
We waved to Jack’s mom perched at the top of the driveway, signaling our consent to play by the rules. Then off we ran. We crossed the sprawling lawn to the edge of the earth where rusty bottle caps were treasures and rocks were ancient arrows.
Our next adventure was the dune. I can’t fathom the purpose of such a massive pile of dirt other than the sheer pleasure of wild children. Brown clouds puffed around our feet as we scampered up the loose mound. Then down we slid, whooping and hollering in rowdy delight. We conquered the slope again and again until my pale skin was plastered with enough dust to make me look like my tan-skinned best bud.
But my most favorite thing was the climbing tree.
Up that tree I was no longer a little girl with scraggly hair and a gap in her front teeth. I was strong. I scaled fearlessly up the white bark, grasping each smooth branch as the tree swayed with the wind, our weight. Higher and higher we climbed like monkeys — unrestrained, carefree. Finding a sturdy bough, we stopped to swing, toes dangling in the breeze. Then the race was back on to see who’d get to the tippy top first where the branches were more like twigs and we’d somehow perch together.
Eventually, my mom returned. She spotted us near the clouds and started calling, “Be careful!” and “Get down now!” Feet back on the ground, Jack and I listened to the appropriate reprimand about how we were far too high and so unsafe.
Yet the scolding was worth it. Every time. Because even if the height and freedom were temporary, I knew my heart was made to fly. I wasn’t content to play with dolls and toy dishes. I was a climber. A seeker. A risk-taker and boundary-tester. I was independent, determined, often stubborn, and always full of spunk.
I hadn’t thought about Jack and our summer adventures in years. Until yesterday morning.
I peered out the kitchen window and saw my five-year-old barefoot in the backyard, digging in the spot we’ve told him not to dig. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. I opened the back door to call him in, but as soon as he saw me his eyes lit up.
“Mommy, Mommy! I found this huge buried stone and I think there might be gold underneath it!”
I heard the excitement in his voice. Smelled the crisp invitation of earth alive with dew. I saw the dirt wedged between his toes, crusted on knees. And all my treasure-hunting, dirt-sliding, tree-climbing days with Jack came rushing back.
The intended rebuke caught shallow in my throat — I knew my son just needed to be free.
“Yes, buddy, I think you’re right. I think there is gold under there.” He kept digging and I went inside seeing the riches just unearthed.
You see, there is a richness to our stories. Hidden treasures of wisdom and insight that come with the gift of hindsight. There are story threads that may seem inconsequential at the time, like a little girl’s tree-climbing delight. But when examined from a broader perspective, that tiny thread feeds into a grander strand — a theme that makes the greater story.
Watching my boy crouch happily in the dirt, I was awestruck by the beauty of how God had woven my story together.
Many times since becoming a mom, I have wondered why God gave me three boys. I grew up with mostly my mom and two older sisters. In a house full of girls, my tomboy days were short-lived. I knew more about Clinique compacts and pink-wrapped Tampax than I did about weapon noises and bathroom humor.
I love my sons fiercely, but some days I feel unexpectedly desperate. How do I thrive (or just survive) in a house full of boys who shout and wrestle till they laugh or cry? Boys with no volume control who make me feel out of control. Boys whose deep-down wild I cannot tame.
I had forgotten me and Jack. I had forgotten what it feels like to fearlessly crave the heights. Forgotten the deep need to live brave beyond boundaries.
This window to my past was the way to remembering.
Now I can see the beauty of an out-of-the-box little girl who God was preparing to one day become a mama. A mama who would need to understand that children thrive in freedom. Freedom to discover how God made the world and each person in it — different.
I’m bulled over with wonder at the grace of His handiwork.
I hear a lot these days about the power of stories. How we need each other’s stories. I wholeheartedly agree. But sometimes we need our own story. We need to remember what has been to understand what is now. We need to record today’s moments so we can make sense of tomorrow’s.
Watching sunbeams catch golden in my boy’s crazy bed-head as he worked to uncover his treasure, I couldn’t help but wonder: How will God use the story I’m living today to prepare me for the one yet to come?