reaching for the atmosphere

photo: sxc.huWe’re driving to the zoo, just him and me.  He’s got another animal book open in his lap and he’s reading aloud about aardvarks and ants and albatross. 

“Mom!  An albatross can fly over the ocean for 10 years without ever coming to land!” 

 “Surely they rest on the ocean when they are tired?”  I ask.  He shrugs.  He is content with the magic of a decade-long flight. I am driving, my whole body floating in this metal box over an ocean of asphalt and I imagine myself gliding, gliding for ten long years. 

“Oh mom!” he says again.  Then his voice gets softer, “They mate for life.”  And then he closes the book and holds it against himself and says, “I like the albatross.”

I can see in the rear view mirror his expression, the pure joy he is feeling, the happiness he has discovered in this good thing.  He has a taste for beauty and godliness and he rejoices in it wherever he finds it.   I am caught up in the same bliss.

I think of how children internalize values and beliefs, how their hearts learn to cherish the things we live before them.   I doubt I have spent much time talking about monogamy and fidelity in particular, but because he lives with it, Caleb knows the tender beauty of faithful love.  

Susan Schaeffer Macaulay writes:

Our children need to experience not intellectual assent to creeds only, but a day to day reality of those living life in relationship to a living King.  The atmosphere of love, truth, humility, forgiveness.   The atmosphere of truly accepting the individual, including his limitations.  Accepting the gifts.  The atmosphere of "hoping all things."  The atmosphere of being open to the thoughts of our age.  The atmosphere that everything matters, nothing is outside the reach of the light of God's truth.  (For the Children's Sake, p 105)


Atmosphere.  It hits us when we walk into an apartment or a house.  Maybe there is a chaotic atmosphere.  Maybe it is sterile.  It can immediately display the very “smell” of anger, cold control, or disrespect for children, the wife, the husband, the elderly, or those with special needs.  In contrast the atmosphere can be one of concern, acceptance, and love for every person. [...]

 Is there an atmosphere of love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness?  Goodness? Faithfulness in big and small matters?  Gentleness?  Mildness?  (For the Family's Sake, p 83)

Which of us doesn't strive for these qualities?  And yet life gets tangly.  Complications and frustrations stand in the way of our intentions.  But atmosphere is not dependent on perfection in our circumstances.  Most of us have to work around some variable that we cannot control – an unbelieving spouse, or an unfaithful partner, financial difficulties, long work hours, sharing space with an unlikeable person, disappointment, a rebellious child, illness or other special circumstances.    These realities don’t have to keep us from bearing the fruit of His Spirit.  In my own home, we deal with very disruptive, ugly behaviors sometimes.  Things are said and done that I would never, ever allow if I had the power to control them.  But I do not.   This is just a part of our family make-up and my challenge is to live by the Spirit anyway.

By God’s grace, nothing can keep me from walking in love.  Nothing can keep me from returning good for evil and a kind word for a hateful one.  Nothing can keep me from filling this house with prayer and psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Nothing can keep me from giving and serving and laying down my life.  It will be difficult, it will be trying, it will be exhausting, but it will not be impossible.

Light's purpose is to illuminate darkness.  The more difficult the circumstance, the more beautiful and exquisite the life of Christ will appear in us.  The loveliness of God’s Spirit is a stream that flows through our homes awakening even hard hearts to beauty and goodness.   Oh, if we will only allow Him to flow and shine through us.

At the zoo, Caleb and I visit the eagles, measure our arms on the wingspan chart along the wall.  The eagle's wings spread about 6 feet across.   My arms are too short to reach.  Caleb takes his turn.

“How much longer is the albatross’ wingspan, mom?”

 “It’s about 11 feet, honey.  Way out to here.”  I lean over and touch a spot on the wall.

He stands on his tiptoes, opens his arms wide and reaches....