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And then I saw their shadows.

A few weeks ago, we had four of our eleven grandsons with us. The youngest of this set joined us for the day—his first time to participate in older boy activities. While they were here, my heart expanded exponentially to encompass these larger-than-life boys—full of verve and energy and ideas all their own. The older three embraced the younger one with ease and love and a genuine camaraderie that convicted me and gave me pause to wonder why adults can’t do the same.

They are typical boys bantering, bickering, laughing uproariously, getting hangry, making messes, and getting tired. I expected and anticipated this boyhood behavior, yet in this typical-ness, I saw something else.

I’ve watched their mothers (and fathers) teach, instruct, correct, and encourage them. Their mothers bend down, squat before them, get on eye level and talk to them. With tears and double joy in my heart, I lean in and listen to my child with my grandchild, and my soul sighs.

These boys have already stood up to bullies on the bus and at school for someone. They have given away possessions and prized things to others because they knew it would bring joy. Each one has protected their younger siblings and cousins, redirecting and applauding them. With courage and insight, these boys have dealt with urgent and emergency situations that far outweighed their experiences. My grandsons navigate a huge world, far vaster and more complicated than the one I inhabited.

And I stand in awe. I do.

Years ago, at different times, I stood in hospital rooms holding these babies in my arms, their little bodies swaddled into tight cocoons. I stared into their faces, and prayers rose from the deep places of me—petitions before God for the hearts and spirits of these boys (and granddaughters, but that will be another post). I saw eternity in each little face, and the immense weight of them filled my arms. I knew I held God’s promises fulfilled. I still can’t trace out the full potential of who they are. Only God knows the possibilities and probabilities of each one I hold next to my heart.

When I took the picture in this post, I snapped my camera phone wildly, as fast as possible, hoping to capture one decent photo. When I looked through the camera roll and found this image, I lost my breath. I’m not employing figurative language; my lungs couldn’t intake; they held on the exhale. The four of them together walking, the slant of their shoulders, hands in their pockets, heads tilted, in birth order…it all undid me.

And then I saw their shadows.

Shadows stretched backward and out of the frame of the photo—foreshadowing who they will become. God will grow these young boys into men. Through their parents and family, He is readying and preparing them internally and externally to become a new generation of Josephs and Daniels.

And I continue to pray. I can no longer hold several of these grandsons in my arms (they are almost as tall as me), but I hold the shadow and substance of them and their cousins ever before the Presence of God.

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