Needing and finding

Speaking of Chai (she's mentioned late in this post), here's a shot of her lounging on the only piece of furniture she's "supposed" to get on.

Speaking of Chai (she’s mentioned late in this post), here’s a shot of her lounging on the only piece of furniture she’s “supposed” to get on.

This morning* I crushed the spirit of one my children.

At least that’s what it felt like.

It was over an organizational issue we’ve been wrestling with ever since school started (well, actually, for years). It’s also an issue that this child refuses to really face as a problem. I hear “I’ve got this” and “No big deal” often enough that it makes me want to scream.

And this morning I did.

“When are you going to see this as a problem?”

“When are you going to admit you need help?”

“When are you going to stop telling me ‘I got this’ and start listening to what I and so many others are telling you?”

Oh, there was more—though God, in His grace, stopped me from saying at least some of the destructive things that were on the tip of my tongue.

But I went on and on. Not a dripping faucet, oh, no, a full-open tap.

And my child cried.

And I felt like, pardon my French, shit.

During it, following it, twinges of it even now.

After the tears, after my anger, I pulled my child aside in the kitchen, held this precious one close and said, “I can’t let you go to school without you understanding that my frustration doesn’t mean I don’t love you just the way you are.”

(And at the same time I said that, I thought, but that’s not what my earlier words and anger communicated!)

I affirmed this child’s wonderful qualities of kindness and generosity and oblivion to differences in other people and unawareness of standards that others set. This child is individual and easygoing and full of so much love.

“But you’re running into some things that are showing you that you have some areas of weakness, too—just like we all do—and until you admit them, you can’t grow in these areas. Do you understand that?” I asked.

My child nodded.

“I’m so sorry for the way I said it, though. There may have been things that needed to be said, but they shouldn’t have been said in anger, and I know I blew it and hurt you. I was wrong.”

My child nodded—but I knew that my apology, which also included “something to work on,“ was a lot for a kid to process.

We got lunches packed. We drove to school.

This child was the last to get out of the car “It’s really okay for you to be mad at me,” I said. “I did you wrong this morning.”

My child paused. Then said, “I love you, Mom.”

I was thankful there wasn’t an immediate statement of forgiveness. I was thankful this child was taking the time and the right to process.

But I barely made it down the carpool lane and around the corner before I began sobbing.

Oh, God, please heal the hurt I caused, I cried. Please come behind me with love and grace and mercy.

Heart churning, I tried to remember all I’d said, tried to sort out the good, the bad, the ugly. Some things felt as if they needed to be said—but in that way?

Then I simply quit, stopped my sorting and picking. “You’ll have to show me, Holy Spirit,” I whispered. “Reveal to me what You want me to see, help me to simply acknowledge my wrong, and then show me how to communicate that to my child. And, please, oh, please, draw this child close to Your heart.”

Home again, I cried more, on my knees, next to my bed.

It wasn’t completely about this morning any more. I’d just had a glimpse of how very fragile we all are, how easily relationships are damaged, how easily I could have said (and maybe did) something my child will carry through the rest of life.

And here's a much better pic of her, taken, of course, by my daughter Em

And here’s a much better pic of her, taken, of course, by my daughter Em

The dog heard me and came into my room. She pushed her way between me and the side of the bed and nuzzled my ear, and I was grateful for this warm-bodied creature sent by God Himself to comfort.

I found myself suddenly singing, the song itself a gift:

Lord, I come, I confess,

Bowing here, I find my rest

Without You, I fall apart

You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need you, oh, I need You,

Every hour I need you.

My one defense, my righteousness,

Oh God, how I need You.

What followed was a day of living into that song, cycling through needing and finding again and again.

Finding rest and rightness with God, and later, blessed reconciliation with my child.

And then, at the close of the day, another gift.

From the bathroom, where my child was getting ready for bed, I heard singing.

When the door opened, I heard it clear.

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You/Every hour I need You.”

“Hon, why are you singing that song?” I asked.

A smile. A shrug. “Don’t know. Just came to mind.”

We have a Lord who guides—and heals—our hearts.

Oh God, how we need You.

*I wrote this yesterday–about yesterday.

Everyday Gospel, continued (part 2 of conversation with Jake)

Game pieces? I think so. Why? Not sure. Because he's a nine-year-old boy? Good answer.

Game pieces? I think so. Why? Not sure.                       Because he’s a nine-year-old boy? Yep, that’s probably it.

Sunday night Dave took the crew out for ice cream. Jake decided to stay behind. As soon as everyone left, I found out why.

“Mom, I need to talk to you about something.”

He’d been waiting for just such a quiet moment.

“What’s up, bud?”

“I think I have an idol.”

It took me a moment to process that one. It’s not a phrase a 9-year-old boy often uses.

“Where did you hear…? Never mind. How ‘bout we sit down together.”

After we were snugged into the chair-and-a-half, with Jake’s hand rubbing the back of my hair, I asked, “What do you think your idol is?”

“Legos.”

“Why do you think Legos are an idol?”

“Because I think about them so much. I would rather play with them than read my Bible. I know that reading my Bible is good, and Legos are keeping me from doing as much of it as I should. I think they’re an idol.”

Ah! A repeat of our conversation the week before.

I held my hands up as if they were scales and launched into an explanation of how we can never do enough “good” to earn God’s acceptance. It’s impossible, which is why He made another Way.

But the anguish in Jake’s face stopped me.

I thought of what I’ve learned through spending time with believers from other cultures—how our Western view of salvation as a transaction is not the only way God presents the Gospel in Scripture. It is justification, yes, but it’s also reconciliation and restoration. It’s relationship, made possible through Christ.

“J-man, what do you think your dad would say if you told him, ‘Dad, I know you’re a runner, so I’m gonna’ start running four miles a day to make you love me more’?”

Jake’s face screwed up as if I’d bought him a hot pink shirt. “Mom, Dad already loves me. That’s not gonna’ make him love me more!”

I grinned.

He was quiet, his brain connecting the dots, seeing in them a picture, a constellation of beauty.

We talked more, about how we know someone loves us, then specifically about how we know God loves us. We talked about God’s joy in Jake’s enjoyment of Legos, how Jake’s creativity, imagination, and collaboration please God; they are gifts from God. We talked about how good things CAN turn into idols (and I thought, “Even Bible reading, clearly!”) and what we do about that.

At one point Jake said something truly beautiful. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this: “So God wants me to read my Bible so I can know better that He loves me! It’s NOT so He will love me more! That’s not it at all.”

I laughed aloud in delight.

But part of my heart grieved.

Not at his words, but at this truth: my son, like I, will forget, time and time again, that God loves us simply because HE IS LOVE. Jake, too, will wrestle with guilt over “not doing enough.” He will lose the joy of being loved freely by God. He will equate “doing” with relationship, and he will wonder what he has done–or not done–to feel so far from God. He will assume God has withdrawn in anger and fail to realize that his own efforts and guilt have actually pulled him away from God rather than to Him.

I am grateful, not only for strange but wonderful conversations with Jake but also that God is revealing my own tendencies through my son.

But I still don’t want him to wrestle with my struggles. I want him to feel as sure of God’s love for him as he is of his dad’s (and, boy, am I grateful for that!). I want him to draw near to God with full confidence in His grace and mercy.

I want him to fiercely love God—because he knows God first fiercely loved him. I want him to know that God never, ever stops loving him.

I want for him what I want for myself.

And I can be confident that God, Who is a far better parent than I, wants the same for both of us.