I’ve mentioned I’m an assistant coach for Wyatt and Seth’s t-ball team, the fightin’ Tarheels. That means I get to be on the field during the game, coaching the tikes. It’s quite a privilege. When they are batting, I might be at first base. When they are fielding, I might stand near second. I couldn’t possibly tell you every off-the-wall thing said to me by these kindergarten ruffians between pitches, proof positive that their mind is absolutely in a different orbit. Merely a sampling:
“I want a mustache.”
“I got five dollars for my teeth.” (with wide, toothless grin)
“I have an imaginary friend: Dennis.”
“Mrrmmmppph…..Elephant” (with glove covering face, apparently to serve as an elephant’s trunk)
That’s right. Watch out, umpires. I am now the official assistant coach of the Central-Clemson Rec League’s Fightin’ Tarheels.
Wyatt and Seth are playing their first year of t-ball, and they landed on the same team. At the first practice, I joined up with management.
I had thought most of my duties would be spent teaching the artful slide into home, demonstrating for aspiring pitchers the wizardry of the spit ball and tweaking that elusive perfect batting order (do we want to keep the clean up hitter in the 4 slot even though he can switch hit and we might could mess with the opposing pitcher’s psyche better elsewhere?).
However, to date, most of my coaching has included encouraging batters to actually face the pitcher, cajoling fielders to stand up and stop digging tunnels in the dirt, tying shoes and opening snacks. You gotta start somewhere.
I do plan to work a scene so I get tossed from a game. What kind of coach would I be if I didn’t have that under my belt?
However, I could more easily foresee a scenario where a small mob of parents toss me. In this league, before we place the ball on the tee, the coach actually pitches (it’s a soft underarm loft, from like 10 feet away) three balls for each batter to attempt to hit. In the first two games, between me and the head coach, we’ve beaned five players. It’s harder than you think pitching to tikes whose reflexes are…well, developing.
Today, Seth and I had the run of the house for a bit. Miska was out, and Wyatt was at school (and since it’s Friday, Wyatt was no doubt counting the seconds ’til he could dash out of his kindergarten classroom and to Mad Science Club where, as he likes to say, they “make lasers that kill people.”)
Seth and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and see what’s up. It’s a gray, cloudy day, a little on the cool side. Great day for a walk. Seth filled me in on all his preschool gossip, and we took a different route to see this new house they are building in our hood. When we got back, we had a little chill and decided to make coffee. We ground up some beans (Mexican, shade grown), and sent the brew to steaming.
You might think that in the two coffee sentences above, I invoked the editorial “we,” that the coffee was really just for me. You would be mistaken.
Seth is fast becoming a coffee fiend. Seth, you will remember, is four.
He’s made friends with all the coffee crew at church, and frankly he no longer needs mom or dad to get his fix on Sunday. Any time we have coffee going at the house, he fully expects his share. And on days when no coffee is going, he’s as quick as anyone to suggest that perhaps a fresh pot is in order. Did I mention he’s four? I do hope his pediatrician is not reading…
Seth is even taking on the whole aesthetic of the thing. Today, he took issue with the fact that I had a handmade pottery mug while he only had a standard issue from Pier One. I guess we know what he’s getting for his birthday.
Wisdom would suggest that a preschooler would essentially like coffee because their version is more like a dessert, a little joe with mounds of sugar. (in fact, when I was a tyke, my Aunt Betty made me “milk coffee” – 1/3 coffee, 1/3 whole milk, 1/3 sugar – what’s not to love?). We never do coffee Aunt Betty-style, but it is definitely not the coffee of purists. Today, our creamer was Cinnamon Hazelnut. A few sips in, though, Seth said, “This is too sweet. I want more coffee.” My friend Nathan Elmore (previously referred to in this blog as “the coffee snob”) would have beamed.
I can’t tell you the joy this moment gave me, sitting at the table on an overcast day, a quiet house. Through our back windows, we see the quiet woods. And we drank coffee. Together. Just my son and me. There will be many more moments like this, I can promise you that.
Around here, it happens only slightly more often than leap year: snow.
Last night when Miska told the boys there was the possibility of white weather, Wyatt informed us that when he grows up, he wants us all to “move to Florida where it snows all the time.” We tried to let him down gently and move his compass either further north or further west. The boys stayed up a little late and went out on the back deck trying to feel and catch the first flakes dropping from the sky.
This morning, we woke to a wide blanket of snow, the leaf-bare trees draped by white velvet. It was beautiful. Of course, Wyatt and Seth insisted on sprinting outside, needing (for the first time) their gortex winter ski gloves. Giddy with excitment, Wyatt blurted out, “This is the best winter ever.” Outside, Seth jumped in head first, the first to make a snow angel, the first to test our makeshift rubbermaid sled, the first to make a snowman.
Today, feeling snowflakes on my tongue and hearing Seth’s raucous laughter as he slid down the hill…Today, enjoying Wyatt’s wide eyes as he crafted the perfect snowball and concocted his best odds at launching it square between my eyes, my heart opened. I felt God alive in my boys. I watched and learned. Now, I repent of my callous heart that is often slow to be given to the moment, enraptured with the passion of where God is stirring life.
It takes me to a portion of Steinbeck’s The Winter of our Discontent Miska read to me last night:
I guess we’re all, or most of us, the wards of that nine-teenth-century science which denied existence to anything it could not measure or explain. The things we couldn’t explain went right on but surely not with our blessing. We did not see what we couldn’t explain, and meanwhile a great part of the world was abandoned to children, insane people, fools, and mystics, who were more interested in what is than why it is.
I think some of the most beautiful words in the Bible are found at the end of Genesis 2 where the author paints the stunning description of humanity during that short pause between creation’s completed wonder and the disastrous Fall: The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame. (Gen 2.25)
In an age where our body image is god, where we nip and tuck and incessantly pluck and flex, where even the most gorgeous among us refer to themselves as a “fat pig” (as I saw a sex icon refer to herself on a magazine cover this past weekend), where we are forever judged by Madison Avenue as well as by our own mirror, these words seem impossible. This physical exposure was not only in moments when Adam or Eve were prepared to be naked (and most all of us have varying comfort levels for this), but all the time, at every moment. There was no covering, ever.
The Genesis story, however, obviously speaks of more than physical exposure. The narrative vividly describes human relationships as we have never seen them: wide-open, unreserved, entirely unguarded. In this first sacred couple, love was better than you or I have ever known it. There was never a reason to hide a thought or to silence a voice. There was never reason to wonder if the other person was a safe place to pour out our soul. In our relationships, we must constantly battle the urge to hide, to guard ourselves from the harm we suspect might come our way if another truly saw all the grim, sordid places inside us.
But with Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, their body and their soul were entirely bare, not a stitch of cotton or a speck of emotional distance to hide behind. I fear this shorn, unshrouded life because I can’t imagine someone seeing all my ugly spots and not pulling back in revulsion. Contrasted to our experience, however, in the Garden, there was “no shame.” Perhaps no more beautiful words have ever been spoken. What would a world be like if shame were completely removed from the mix?
I think I’m pondering along these lines because this week is Miska’s and my tenth anniversary. Our marriage is quite imperfect, and we certainly do not know the intimacy and emotional safety Adam and Eve enjoyed. However, we want to. We are hoping and moving that direction. Every one of us needs a friend (a spouse, a father, a sister, a soul friend) who sees who we truly are, who helps us see what Jesus is crafting in us, who speaks against the many shaming voices in our life.