“I just wanted to come and say goodbye to you,” he told me, looking very serious.
“Really, where are you going?” I asked. It was hard to hear his response over the dull roar of 25 plus kids gallivanting about on the playground, but I thought he said something about 16 days.
He kept talking, and I did my best to listen. I heard only bits and pieces of what he was saying, but when sound bites about “going on a mission” and “superheroes” reached my ears, I figured I should sit down and hear him out at eye-level. I knew this was going to be good.
He told me matter-of-factly that he needed to leave for a mission that would involve “fighting bad guys to make the land safe.” He would be gone for “six tens,” which I guessed to mean 60 days. He leaned in for a hug and told me goodbye. I wished him well.
About ten minutes later, he came back over and took a small package of candy out of his coat pocket. “I want you to have this so you won’t forget me while I’m on my mission.”
“Oh, honey, I could never forget you,” I told him. “You don’t have to give me something so I’ll remember you. I won’t forget about you while you’re away on your mission.”
He nodded and put the candy back in his pocket, then went off to bid farewell to a couple other teachers.
Another fifteen minutes passed, and this adventurer under age six came up to me, again. In a low voice, he asked me not to call him by his name anymore. “I’m going to have to change my name for the mission,” he explained.
“Okay, sweetheart,” I said. “When I see you I’ll just say hi instead of saying your name. Got it.”
This reminded me of countless other experiences I’ve had when young people tell me about a job they need to go do, a mission or trip that they’ll be going on. Sometimes I can tell from the get-go that what I’m hearing is a figment of an active imagination, but in other instances, it’ll be a few minutes of the little one talking non-stop before they throw in a detail that lets me know they’re spinning a yarn not recounting actual events that happened to them.
If Batman, Spiderman, or My Little Pony is among those named in the adventure, I know we're in the land of make-believe. When parents, siblings, and other actual people and plausible situations and circumstances are involved, I figure it could be truthful, at least in part.
I receive daily reflections from the Henri Nouwen Society blog via e-mail, and “Fulfilling a Mission” was the theme of the excerpt of his writing selected for one day this past week. You can read it here.
It's true. We may travel far and be gone for a long time on our journey, but God always goes with us. “My home is within you” we’re reminded in Psalm 87:7. After a time, He bids us return home for rest, reflection, and to share what we have learned. Not only places, but also people can constitute “home” for us.
Questions for Reflection: How seriously do we take our mission in this life, the vocations to which we are called, and the particular roles and tasks God asks of us? How do we discern which missions are meant for us? Are we silent long enough to listen to what it is God wants of us? Do we put limits on where we’re willing to go and what we’re willing to do for God?
Prayer: Lord, help us be open to Your missions for us in this life so that we may be better able to enjoy eternity basking in Your love. Amen.