We stood there together, she, being just under three feet tall, and me, a tower behind her, wanting to reach out and offer shelter under my hesitating frame. I couldn’t see her face, but I imagined the trepidation that I could feel as I saw her almost turning back. Standing in the doorway to a preschool classroom doesn’t seem as daunting as the edge of a cliff, but to a little girl who’s not yet two, it might as well be the end of the world.
Last week there were tears. She clung to me as if we were at the gates of Hell, and I became her teddy bear – soft, supple, empathetic, teary. I clung back, wishing away her fears that were so unwarranted and yet so real.
Today, I waited for the outburst, the rush back into my arms. I bit my lip as I expected the wailing to begin any moment. She rocked back on her heels and I thought, here it is. But then, she took a step forward and never looked back.
I’ve been thinking about heroes and remembering the stories that filled my childhood and ignited a flame in my heart. Harriet Tubman tops my list. Quiet, persistent, brave. She was so far-reaching with her influence, in a world where many could not read and where social-media was non-existent. Her mission was powerful as she worked tirelessly to guide slaves through the Underground Railroad on a path to freedom.
She would be a guest at that ideal dinner party that transcends time and space. Harriet Tubman, Jesus and Caitlin Jenner. I don’t think I would be a very good hostess because I would want to observe – one, how Harriet Tubman told her stories, and two, how Jesus treated Caitlin. A friend mentioned that scenario one time and it stuck, forever placing these dinner guests alongside Harriet and me.
I bet Harriet Tubman acted a lot like Jesus. I think that’s why my eighth grade self was so drawn to her. She gave up her life to save people. I can imagine her hiding in the dark, staring out from behind a door, wondering if what was on the other side was going to bring freedom or fear. She kept on, though, delivering her people from the gates of Hell.
“I just want to sop her up with a biscuit.”
I heard this today and I thought about all the people I want to sop up. I wish this was a thing. If we could only trail our idols, soaking up all the gravy and goodness that pours out. I would need a large biscuit.
I’ve realized that I’m a learner. I’ve been taking an online writing class and a free seminary course, and soaking up every last drop. Four years out of school and I feel the burn of new knowledge, searing paths in my mind and making lasting impressions in my soul. I want to be a lifelong learner, which is convenient because there are teachers everywhere, and not just in classrooms. This is when the biscuits come in handy.
The only obstacle to knowledge taking root is fear. For me, fear of failure. My new skills and ideas want to take flight, but comparison and envy often stifle the joy of an adventure. I’m learning that my journey will always be different; no two explorers are the same.
Everything in me wants a giant teddy bear to cling to, to tell me it’s okay, and to take me swiftly back where I belong. Standing alone is hard, but I sense there’s a Tower behind me, urging me onward, biting His lip with empathy as He sees me struggling on.
Reunions are sweet, and impossible to have without an initial parting. I hold my little girl tight in my embrace and the earlier scene of stepping through the door is far from her mind. She is beaming – her adventures left a permanent smile on her face and she is happy to be back in my arms.
We gather our things and walk back where we came from, back to the familiar places we know.
We’ll be back.