She told him, "When I was in college I read a folktale about a father pursuing a son who'd run far away, from one world to the next. The father called to him, 'Please come back!' But his son looked across the great gulf between them and shouted to him, 'I can't go that far!' So his father yelled to his son, 'Then just come back halfway!' But his boy replied, I can't go back halfway!' And finally his father shouted, 'Walk back as far as you can! I'll go the rest of the way!'"
- Atticus by Ron Hansen
The twins had a real knock-down, drag-out fight the other day. There was an intensity of pushing and pulling and screaming as they battled. By the time I realized what was happening they were knocking each other down, falling one on top of the other into the teetering baby gate.
I jumped up quickly and intervened, pulling them apart as they screamed, still leaning in toward each other in a "let me at 'em" posture. Then, as quickly as it started, it was over and Isaiah clung to me, sobbing, while Levi backed away, defiant.
I walked over to the couch intending to sit down with both and Isaiah ran to me, burying his face in my shoulder as I lifted him to sit on my left thigh. Levi stayed, though, where he was on the other side of the room pouting out his lip and sliding down to the floor, turning into the perfect picture of a tiny teenager right before my eyes.
I called his name and stretched my arm out toward him, my hand open, beckoning, "Levi, come. Come to Mama. Come let Mommy hug you."
He grunted, a rude little defiant noise he's perfected in recent weeks, and cast his eyes down in a dramatic gesture while his little hand explored the floor around him looking for something to throw.
So I changed my tone adding a note of authority, "Levi, Mommy said to come. You need to come to me right now."
I paused and tried counting in a warning tone, a trick that always works with my older two, "One . . . Levi, you need to come to me," I said as I waved my arm and patted my leg invitingly, "two . . . three."
He stayed put, though, so obviously relishing the part he played that I nearly laughed. The posture, the attitude, came naturally, and he was trying it on, like a hat or a shoe, trying on what it felt like to be separated, to be naughty.
I watched him sitting there and I felt stuck. I knew Isaiah would read it as a betrayal if I set him down to deal with Levi and I knew I couldn't let Levi stay where he was, so small and distant.
All at once I tightened the grip of my left arm, which was wrapped around Isaiah, stood up and crossed the room to where my wayward son sat playing his part there on the carpet. Bracing my legs wide like a weight-lifter, I leaned down and wrapped my right arm around him, pulling him half-way up my body and hobbling back toward the couch, a boy in each arm.
He didn't resist me and when we sat down both boys laid their heads on my chest and I wrapped my arms around them like two great wings of love and we were restored to each other once again.
There is a width and depth to parenting twins that's changing me. As their wills and battles intensify I find myself often kneeling and gathering them both, wrapping my arms around the one who hit and the one who was hit for they both need me, equally. My love is growing in breadth even as my body did in carrying and birthing these boys, so that it seems like that capacity that was born in me in gestation is stretched and expanded daily as I lift and love and hold these two.
As I sense this expansion in myself, I can't help but think I am coming to know the expansive, gathering love of God in a new way. The same love that Jesus said drove the father outside of his house, not once but twice, as he sought to gather in both the prodigal and the older brother. The same love that Paul says we are being rooted and grounded in even as he prays that we might somehow come to comprehend its "the breadth and length and height and depth (Eph. 1:17-18).
This is the love of God, wide and expansive, embracing and gathering. We all, like so many sons and daughters, find ourselves in a distant land from time to time and it is God's will that we would all be gathered in to the arms of God. And as we are gathered and learn to "bear the beams of love*," we become gatherers too, willing to go the rest of the way.
* William Blake
This post is linked with Imperfect Prose.