King in Swaddling Cloth

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I rose early, tiptoeing across the wooden floor, past the girls’ room, towards the front door. It opened with a soft thud, I slid outside. I walked towards the beach, imagining it empty. But I found a lady tourist taking photos of a sea gull in front of the sunrise, and group of Xhosa people, all dressed in white, singing on the rocks by the ocean. A man was led to the icy blue waters, drenched three times and rose to life. The singing was beautiful, lilting, repetitive.

Amidst all the beauty I only saw lack. I chose heartache. I thought of Mozambique and I missed it. I missed them. I sat on the bench, gazing at the startling sea. The group finished – some of the men changed in the public bathrooms and the women waited outside. A girl from the group sat next to me. We talked for a moment about her church and when she left she smiled and said “have a blessed Sunday.”

It was totally up to me whether I did or not.

And as if that girl’s words sang into my day, I did. A wonderful long, happy Sunday with friends and kids in the dirt and food and sunshine.
And when I woke up on Monday, I kept thinking this: Today is what I have to love you. Today, not tomorrow. Today with all it’s ordinary mundanity, with burning glory embedded, in the cracks.
Today over breakfast. Cold milk poured over Weetabix into plastic bowls, orange and red, given into tiny hands. The same words every morning, this bowl is yours, I’m just getting the spoons, yes there’s three Weetabix in there for you, Willow is getting two. Milk spilt on the table, smudged cereal on the floor. Bending down, wiping mouths, rinsing cloths under hot, running water. Today is what I have to love you. Here, now.
Today, and so I pray. Sometimes tomorrow can seem like it holds this glorious intimacy with God – when I live there, when I do that, when we go to this meeting, when we are older. But today is what I have, I don’t know if I have tomorrow or not. So I whisper to Him when I remember. Nothing longer than a few words, but something. Something to love Him with.
Today, in the mess and whirl and pink and noise. In the frustrated toddler-cry and the pretend games, picking up toys and breaking eggs into bubbling butter. One by one. Scraping yesterday’s food off the floor and putting her hair up again and nursing the other to sleep. I forget to pray. And I’m discouraged because I wanted to give Him something here. But He gently reminds me I am, with my voice sometimes yes, with my thoughts sometimes yes, but also with my hands. My hands, cooking food and cuddling tiny bodies and putting on socks. My feet, repetitively circling my home like liturgy, walking to the playpark in the wind like worship.
Today is what I have to love Him with. Not tomorrow. I still dream, of course. I need to dream the same way I need air. Crisis after crises flashes on my computer screen. A child dead on the beach, and many others hidden in Congo and China and Manenberg, and a whole world who needs to see His love. We need to dream. Dream higher and wider for more glorious things. We need to match this ugly onslaught with such a pure and blazing vision, brighter, stronger, unyielding. This is how we need to dream. This is how He dreamt, so high and wide that He stretched His own bloodied arms out to cover the world with His love.

But once I’ve dreamt all these bold and beautiful things, I must give today all that I have, knowing the boldest and beautifullest things are often under my my roof. In the form of warm cheeks waiting for kisses and warm hearts ready, like clay, to mould. I wake up to this all the time. I hold these ones, I treasure them. Many times I am weak and tired and I don’t, I hurt my people and I say sorry, and I remember I’m covered in skin and grace.
And as night falls, the air grows quiet. I slow. I look at my hands, my feet, my heart. My gold, my frankincense, my myrrh, laid at His feet, King in swaddling cloth.

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King in Swaddling Cloth