I don’t know her first word. I don’t know when she rolled over or started to crawl. I didn’t see her crack her first smile.
Those milestones mark the first year of life. What about years two, three, four, and on?
And if they are here today and gone tomorrow — in just one blink — how do I mark my time with her when already-short time is shortened?
Sometimes I hold her face in my hands and I want the world to slow its beat to this one moment. Those hours that babies study the creases on their mother’s faces aren’t wasted, they are foundational.
Can we have those back?
She feels it too. I watch her brood over new mothers and their babies as her eyes become darkened corridors into years she never had. Her present understanding of her pain can, some days, be like a long, sterile hallway. (Sterile always seeks to weasel its way into what God, instead, calls fodder for redemption. We Hagertys know this well.)
So we adore. When healing is working its way in but isn’t yet ready to be a conversation, we adore the Healer.
On one particular night, as they wrapped their jammie-clad selves around each other and us for our adoration, we adored Him as the God who remembers. There was no intention to this particular passage. We were just on the letter “R”, as we worked our way up the alphabet. Little did I know that to children whose past seemed unwitnessed (because isn’t so much of parenting making yourself a witness in those little day-to-day moments?), having a God who remembers touches deep.
His four year-old words alerted me to this. “Thank You, God, for remembering me when my Ethiopian mommy wasn’t around.”
He had words for concepts too big for his young mind to fully conceive.
And then my mommy-watcher followed.
“Thank you for remembering when I got my ears pierced, even though I don’t remember.”
I caught Nate’s eyes and he gave me the look that said we just stumbled onto holy ground. Her words, too, were too big for her.
The moment around which little girls spend years, before, planning and years, after, in telling the story, was lost in her memory. The initiation for so many into something that marks them as feminine, was another unwitnessed milemarker for her.
But wait, there was a Witness.
He is big enough to orchestrate a search and rescue for this child that was more miraculous than anything we’d seen in our combined 68 years of life … and He is big enough to remember the day she got her ears pierced.
He is the God who remembers.
He searches us out. Yes, even the ones His fingers formed, He searches. He knows the rise and fall of our chest when we breathe and each one of our cautious or careless steps as we take them. His thoughts towards us are endless, those thoughts that come from His searching.
This is the likeness in which we were made.
Our Daddy taught us how to search by how He searches, yet in this period of history we migrate towards settling our worlds around the work of His hands rather than around the lines of His face. Both are good and noble. Necessary. He calls us to both. But one must precede the other if the other is to carry the strength and weight to which it was intended.
When I stop seeing myself as one He searches out — when I forget that He witnessed my first spin on a bike without training wheels and the day I lost that race and the roughshod words, from a trusted friend, that left a welt — I quickly forget that my insides get liberated when I search Him out.
Because, it’s easier to mimic the works of His hands than it is to look long into His eyes and ask Him questions about Himself and His heart. I know this well; nearly a decade of my life wore this story.
We’re more comfortable pursuing His agenda than we are asking Him what are You thinking, what are You feeling? (Even the mere suggestion of this causes us to pause. We wonder: does He really feel?). It’s a shift to consider Him, in and of Himself, as a driving pursuit and the rest of life as its train cars.
But if taken out of this order, pursuing the work of His hands can be like candy. It tastes good. It gives us that energy burst and we can rally girlfriends, alike, around this sweet fix. But it peaks and it falls. It drives hard and fast through our nervous system, but it’s thrill has no longevity.
He’s layered Himself for our searching out because this search … it’s boundless.
He robed Himself in a Son so that we might recognize what love looks like encased in flesh. (And this Son of His, felt.)
He came to be known by the ones that He made.
The things on His heart — the brokenness in the world, the poverty of heart and life, the ones still bare-foot and bed-less — are only a part of a very complex God who’s given us a lifetime to explore Him.
He is the God who remembers, to her — not because He remembered her birth or her adoption nor the skills He has given her to be used for His kingdom one day. He is the God who remembers, to her, because He remembers when she got her ears pierced.
His face carried an expression when we broke through infant-cries with our first word.
He knows intimately those still, small moments of ours.
We learn to search from the One who searches us.
And it’s from that place that we wear His callouses on our hands. (It’s from here that we Hagerty’s adopt and will likely adopt again. It’s from here that we pray: make us uncomfortable as we bear the burden of what breaks Your heart.)
And it’s from here that we — the collective “we” — carry a power and a strength in ministry and justice that will make the world say whose Groom is this bride’s?
Making it practical: I, all-too-often, build a glass ceiling over my expectations of growth in Him. I settle.
Searching Him out starts with recognizing there is more growth to be had in Him. Great growth. If you’re finding your heart towards Him in the same place today as it was a year ago, or even a month ago, start asking for that growth. I want to know You more has become the thin thread that is beginning to stretch across all seasons of my life.
Find a familiar passage — you know, that one you’ve underlined or the spot to which Your Bible naturally falls open — and ask Him to reveal a new side of Himself in there. (For example: What were You thinking, what were You feeling when You changed that water into wine?) Take what He highlights and pray it, under your breath and over your sink and on your morning commute with the expectation that He will bring greater understanding of Himself to You. Make His Word a part of your language.
Or crack open your Bible to a brand new-to-you passage and ask Him to reveal a side of Himself you’ve never seen. Ask Him questions. Handle His Word with expectation that there is a God-Man to be found on the page.
A life of searching Him out can begin with just one minute … just one question.