I turned and found a bench tucked away, facing the landscape. It had the last of the sun and an unusual aspect, one private but yet with an open, panoramic view of the country. A good place from which to look out, I thought; a good pace to hide; a good place to cry. I sat down and hoped no one would remove this bench; that it would remain there till the end of time.~Hisham Matar (From A Month In Siena)
I kept going back to the dream. A man I did not recognize came to me and said, "The baby is yours." He held in his arms a little girl, maybe about three months old, dressed in green and pink. Barefoot, her infant feet plump and soft. Blue eyes gazed at me, serene. The man gently placed her in my arms, and without any fretting, the baby relaxed on my shoulder and promptly fell asleep. I ran my hand over her vulnerable head. At her temple, I could see faint blue veins under the surface of her perfect skin. I bent to kiss her forehead, inhaling her fragrance. Her newness. Her warmth.
When I awakened, I felt as if the child was still in my arms. What could I make of this, other than the sheer pleasure it brought to me? I remembered my own children, when they'd sleep on my shoulder. When I could have gone on rocking them for days, just to listen to the surrender of their gentle breathing. I could remember thinking how nice it was to take a break and simply hold them. Let the list of to dos fall away. Allow the stillness. And then, after a while, they'd raise their heads, rub their eyes and scurry down from my lap. I could remember those brief moments of relaxation and how the peacefulness made a difference in the day. Calmed me.
I wondered if my dream was about receiving from God. Perhaps He wanted me to experience more of His grace, like I'd hold a baby, allowing time for Him to minister His peace and love to me. What if I could receive His kindness in the midst of this time in our culture that can leave one feeling unanchored and bewildered? What if I was a more skillful receiver of His comfort and goodness?
A few years ago, Giovanni and I traveled to Barcelona, and I took a photo of an elderly woman sitting on a secluded bench holding a small dog. The two sat looking out over a park. And still they sat when we returned from our lunch. Maybe they'd been there an hour or more. Enjoying each other's warmth and company. I envied them a bit.
It can be counter-culture now--to be still when we've lost so much control. It feels counterintuitive to expect God's grace, to surrender to it. Yet I can choose to. I have that control. I can hold the baby close. Allow the pause. Allow the warmth. Find the bench tucked away. Receiving grace seems an important tool during these uncertain days.