Walking behind him, I can see clearly that his jeans only just reach his ankles. The nurse talks over her shoulder—okay, follow me and then some small talk about the weather, the red file folder jutting out, an extension of her hand that messes up all the angles. She fills the space with words so light that I can still keep up, even though I’m thinking, OH.my. When did he get so tall? I hadn’t noticed that he needed new jeans, mostly because he’s so slim that keeping the pants up has more readily captured my attention as of late. I often reach for him and lay my fingers neatly in the valleys between his ribs. He’s my son; I remember when I could gather the entire length of him into my arms; when his cheeks and arms and stubby legs filled my palms, round and baby-warm.
Adam is too old now to hold my hand when we walk down the hall. He is taller than the nurse, but we are far enough apart that I can see the way her hair escapes her ponytail in unruly wisps. She leads us to the lab, and Adam slips off his shoes before we reach the doorway, leaving them empty in middle of the glossy floor, frozen mid-stride. He’s been doing these checkups since he was two. I remember the days when he did not understand the words take off your shoes, when I would have to back him against the wall, kneeling down to move his fat feet back, back, no—here, so that his heels touched and they could measure his height. Now, Adam does it on his own, dutifully holding his back up straight while the nurse slides the metal piece down gently against the top of his head.
He’s grown nearly a full inch in two months, the nurse says, jotting something quickly on a yellow sticky note pressed askew on the top of the file. I’m not even sure why they carry the folder anymore, except that I have to sign an updated history every time, checking boxes against potentially alarming symptoms. All of this data she will actually type into the computer, clicking for longer than the data seems, while she asks if we need any prescription refills, if we have any concerns. Meanwhile, I will look and relook at papers stapled to a bulletin board on the wall next to me—a list of diabetes camps, an infographic about what A1C results mean; at the framed print—Dr Seuss’ Advice About Life, read thrice.
But actually, I am thinking about my son, gathering my own growth-notes in sweeping glances that glide over his cheek bones, the intense focus of his eyes, the length of his fingers as he pencil-circles a found word and then types it into the search box on Dictionary.com. He mutters the pronunciation softly, too low for the nurse to notice, and then moves on, shifting his attention in short, quick jerks. I can almost see the mathematical precision with which he sums this information, information that will not stay or that will sit just beyond the reach of use. Whatever it is that jumbles the synapses in his mind has kept him wanting his whole life—wanting to know, wanting to speak, wanting to connect. Adam is hungry all the time—hungry for knowledge, and these days, hungry for food. This reflection makes me chuckle, and the nurse looks up from her clicking keys and smiles, wondering, as the top end of the thought escapes me aloud, unbidden.
I can’t seem to keep him full, and no wonder: Almost a full inch in two months. He gets his own snacks, and sometimes now I find him carb counting three granola bars and a couple of fig cookies all at once, the pile scattered around a steaming cup of coffee in the afternoon. At a potluck last Sunday, he found me in the line to ask for help estimating the carbs for his lunch.
“How many carbs do I have?” He’d said lyrically, carefully lifting the “I” for emphasis. He still mixes up his pronouns sometimes, so he concentrates on the shapes the sounds make, the lift of our voices, when we model them correctly for him.
“Well, I’ll have to see your plate,” I’d said, following him from the buffet to the table. I had been caught in conversation and had not been with him in the line. He had piled his plate as full as it possibly could be, a mountain of protein and pastas, cheeses and sauces. I have never seen so much food on one plate. He’s hungry, I thought, finding his unrestrained feasting both refreshing—he sees no need to hide what he needs–and also a little embarrassing. Adam’s growing independence often reveals new lessons to teach, ways in which his failure to understand social rules makes other people uncomfortable. After all, most of us hide our hunger neatly behind legitimate restraint. That is, until that want becomes a beast we cannot control any longer, a monsterous thing we unsuccessfully try to satisfy multifariously. Our idols are the gripped and wildly thrown solutions to our need, sugary substitutes for real nourishment stuffed into ravenous, gapping holes in our lives.
God has beckoned us to a feast, inviting us off the dusty streets (Matthew 22: 1-14), offering us Kingly robes in exchange for the rags of our own self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). He offers Himself as the full meal, the bread that satisfies hunger, the living water that slakes our thirst. Pile your plates high, He says. Be unrestrained, unafraid, unembarrassed by your need for me. And perhaps if we were a little more openly hungry for God and a little less consumed by keeping up appearances, we could find sustainance before our need becomes a beast. In my mind, I see Him approaching me, the rags hanging from my elbows and the ridiculous way I can sometimes feign satisfaction while I’m soul-starved.
The way he’s growing, the nurse says, glancing my way as she types, I bet he eats and eats.
He never gets enough, I say, laughing. And at potlucks…Well, I’m beginning to think I need to give him a list and some boundaries before we go. I open up a little window, so that she can catch a glimpse of my thoughts, that moutainous plate.
But at least he knows what he lacks and seeks after the right solutions, I’m thinking. I never get enough of God, but so often I reach for so many substitutes for what I really need. I watch Adam, circling and searching for words—reaching for what he needs—and suddenly I’m reminded of a passage I read in the morning, just as the light brought in the day:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).
Sustaining all things by His powerful word. I had underlined the words and re-written them in my journal. Sustaining all things, it says. So God reaches into me, pointing to something already written there. “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3),” and then “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).” It’s a misread, a sad mistake, to believe God has promised an end to physical need for the faithful. He has promised, instead, to be the spiritual feast, offering Himself as the sacrificial meal. And in fact, He has promised a ravenous and continuous hunger that can only be satisfied with Him, a longing that will become a monsterous, discontented and angry beast unless we openly consume Him, unrestrained and unconcerned with propriety. In that way, our hunger is actually a gift, a gnawing reminder of our need for God and the grace-given invitation to feast. In my journal, I wrote a single question: Why, knowing this, do I so often, so quickly reach for sustainance in empty things?
I can’t help but think of this now, talking to the nurse about how growing makes Adam hungry. I can always have absolutely as much of God as I want, and all my hungry feasting on Him means I will grow tall too. And does God then smile, remembering me as a babe?
OH, let him eat, the nurse says, grinning. He needs it. “Look at him,” she says, gesturing toward him with an open hand. “Every thing he eats right now goes into bone growth. He needs that food for strength.” She shrugs, laughing. “Who cares what people think?”
…his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:2,3).
Meditation on the Bible is more than just intense thinking. …Meditation is spiritually “tasting” the scripture—delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually “digesting” the Scripture–applying it, thinking about how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture…(Timothy Keller, Prayer, 150-151)