I sat on the fluff of her down comforter, firmly resisting her eight year old puppy dog pleas to snuggle – even though it would have been so easy to curl up in her cozy twin-sized nest. It was past bedtime, a school night…..all the practical reasons to say no.
“No! NO! No! Here’s a kiss, and a hug. I love you, GOODNIGHT!’
I’m the mom after all, and I had zero desire to snuggle. It had been a long day of serving, cleaning, cooking, and supervising. I had nothing left. No cuddle emotions, no stories of when I was little. Nothing. I needed alone time, and from years of experience I know that snuggling is not a quick little venture. One innocent question leads to another and simple, let’s-keep-this-snappy answers are never satisfactory to a child pulling out every stop to keep sleep at bay. There is heart necessary, and my heart was cold and spent.
In my emotional emptiness, I prayed something over my girls…going through the motions…as I had done for my boys a few minutes before. Then I left the room with a wave and blown kiss, hoping they’d just accept my attempts to maintain calm, go to sleep as requested, and not probe deeper into the caverns of my heart.
Mothering done for the night, my own back patted for getting to them all to bed, I moved on to occupy my time with things that fill me – namely…being alone, and quiet. (Introverted, yes!)
Sometimes this mothering thing takes me to the edge and drops me over. Sometimes I gracefully receive His Hand extended to me, and climb back up and march on…and sometimes I sit and wallow in the pit I’ve landed in, wondering if it’s even worth climbing out…all the while going through the motions of maintenance mothering. I will be the first to admit, this is HARD. At the end of the day, when kids need contact and words of reassuring love for their tenderly open hearts, there is often a void in my own, and the love that I want to show, is gone – evidenced by the quickness with which the acts and gentleness disappear when tested.
Where I may be able to fool my kids into believing I loved them to sleep, I know…and God knows the state of my heart, and all that it lacks on it’s own.
But the beauty of this intimate knowledge is that He also knows how to perfectly fill it back to overflowing!
On that night of rushed goodnights, His grace came in the quietness of my living room, as I’d just gotten comfortable with a drink and a book. Out of the shadows of the sleepy hallway came the form of my eight year old, sneakily peeking out to interrupt My Alone Time. She was desperately afraid (a normal occurance in our nightly routine with her) and couldn’t calm herself. Though I really just wanted to tell her to get back to bed, I went through the motions of being tender and caring, put my book down and gathered her up in my arms. She cuddled in like a baby and asked me a question that first made me want to laugh, but then convicted me.
“I want to pray, but If I tell God I’m afraid to die, will He make me die?”
The laughter came because I know God – and that’s not what He does! He is loving and kind, slow to anger, full of compassion, and has this indescribable affection for child-like faith and an honest heart!
But then the conviction came. This same God who loves so perfectly is my Father, and if He loves me with all my silly, out of whack feelings and assumptions and fears, why was I withholding myself from His power to fill me with love and strength and gentleness even on a tough day.
So while I tenderly spoke the truth to my sweet girl about this awesome God who cares for us more than the beautiful flowers of the field, and calls us His beloved children, God spoke warmth and life into my tired, cold soul and reminded me,
“I’m always with you. I know your thoughts before you even speak them. I know what motivates you, scares you, and makes you withdraw. I know when you’re fake, and what you really want to say and do. I know when you’re trying to do this all on your own. It’s not fulfilling is it!? I’m not surprised by your weaknesses. You don’t have to put on a show. I’m not impressed with your ability to tough it out. Why don’t you just stop worrying that you won’t be cared for? Or that you’re misunderstood, or underappreciated. I’M ALWAYS RIGHT HERE. Crawl into my arms and rest. I will forever love you with whole-hearted affection. You are mine!”
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;
but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)