Sunday, October 21, 2012
COM Ch 16: . . . To Child . . .
Chapter 16 . . . To Child . . .
Learning to be a child - after fighting it for so long - did not come naturally to me. While I was beginning to understand that I had been a step-child all those years, I was still a little unsure of how to be His child. What does being a child look like? God was showing me that honesty and transparency were a major part of it, but there was more. I needed to move from a relationship based on fear to one based on love. But how do you let others love you when you are used to protecting yourself from vulnerability and closeness?
As someone who didn’t like to rely on others, I also didn’t like to cry on other people’s shoulders. I don’t like to go to others when I’m in pain. I don’t ask for hugs. I don’t collapse into people’s arms crying. I can honestly count on one hand how many times that has happened. And one of those times was in seventh grade when I cried on the shoulder of a friend because I wanted to quit volleyball. The coach always played favorites with her daughter and her daughter’s friends. And I was not one of her daughter’s friends. But after seventh grade, those times were even fewer and farther between. For me, that kind of thing was humiliating. A sign of weakness. And just plain pathetic.
Oh, I don’t mind being the one that other people come to when they are hurt. I like that role. I like being the comforter, the one with the answers and the open arms. I really have a heart for hurting people and for trying to make them feel loved and cared for. (I get this from my mom. And it’s probably why I became a counselor.)
But when I am in pain? Well, I just suck it up and march on with my head held high. I figure things out in my head and sort out my pain that way. And I didn’t really need anyone’s, including God’s, embrace or comfort because I could do it myself. Instead of just crumbling before Him, I would try harder to put up a strong, responsible front. I didn’t need God as my comforter. Provider, yes. But comforter, no.
Needing people means you could get let down or hurt. Needing people means learning to live without all the control. Needing people means being vulnerable. And I hated those things. I was okay with Him being God. But I wouldn’t let myself need more than that. And not only that, He didn’t have to bother Himself with me. I was fine with “whatever.” I was used to “whatever.” Good step-children are like that.
But as I shared in the last chapter, I was learning that I had done it wrong all this time. But I didn’t really know any better. I didn’t have a dad that I was ever completely comfortable with, especially not with my pain. They could be providers and they could be buddies, but to seek comfort from them and cry in their arms when I was hurting? Well, that would just be awkward and humiliating.
But to really be a child meant not only putting myself out there completely and honestly, but it meant going to Him when I was in pain, instead of nursing my wounds in private. When all was falling down around me, I needed to run to the safety of His arms and fall down exhausted into His embrace, trusting Him to catch me. I never had that with a dad. This wasn’t easy for me to learn.
When my first son, Kody, was born, I could tell instantly that he was a snuggler. He loved nothing more than just sitting by my side or being carried around as I did my housework. And when I held him, he would just melt into my arms and linger there. He enjoyed every minute of it. And so did I! There were even times when he would walk up to complete strangers and hold their hands or lift his arms up so they would pick him up. (Which, of course, made me a little nervous and a lot more alert when I was out around strangers with him.) But he was a charmer and he just loved to rest in people’s arms.
If I had known that he would be my only child like that, I probably never would have put him down. Because my next three were squirmers. The kind of babies that when you held them, they would fight you - squirming to grab things, trying to do what they wanted, or sitting way back in your arms, instead of just relaxing against you.
Hunter would push back from us and sit as far away from us as he could, while still wanting to be held in our arms. It would get too hard to hold him like that, so we’d put him down. And he’d cry to be picked back up again. And so we’d pick him up . . . and he’d sit way back in our arms again.
Ryder would . . . well . . . Ryder just never sat still long enough to hold him. I always said that when he was born, he immediately started screaming, climbing furniture, and throwing things. And because he was so fast and busy, the nice, lingering hugs were basically non-existent. The minute that I picked him up to hug him, he’d see something he wanted to do and he’d fight to get down. Or he’d use his lightning fast hands to grab whatever he could grab as we passed by. It would be too much work and struggle to carry him around, so we’d put him down. Of course, then he’d scream and try to get picked up again. But if we wanted to get anything done, we had to let him pout on the floor. He just couldn’t rest in our arms.
I do remember one time when he was a toddler. We were outside watching the older boys play, and it must have been nap time because he sat on my lap and fell asleep. After a moment or two, I realized that he was actually sitting still in my arms and that I was holding him. He was actually snuggled up against me and I was holding him. Of course, he was unconscious, but I was still on Cloud Nine! I just snuggled my face into his hair and soaked it up, because it was the first time I could remember that he just rested in my arms. Oh, how it hurt to have to get up all too soon and make dinner!
And Jackson is turning out to be a very busy child, too. There is just too much to do and too many brothers to play with to sit by boring, old Mom. Sometimes he will sit in my arms (when he’s nursing), but when he’s done, he throws me off like a dirty shirt and runs to find better things to do. Oh, he will sit sometimes, like when he’s sick or tired. Or when he knows that I’m about to get up and do something else. But I try to hold him whenever I can!
When he was born, I noticed that he wouldn’t fall asleep in my arms easily. He would sit in my arms and nurse, but he wouldn’t easily fall asleep on me. And I always loved it when my babies would fall asleep on me. Jason’s mom had come over to help after he was born, and anytime she held him, he would fall asleep in her arms and just lay there so contentedly. I, of course, would be sitting across the room in a chair and be like, “Hey, that’s not right. Ok, give him back now!” (I wouldn’t really say it, but I would think it. And then I’d find ways to get him back again.)
Well, one day, when he was just a couple weeks old, I finally had the chance to take a much-needed nap. So I dragged my sore self up the stairs and climbed into bed with Jackson. And I remember that it was the first time that he fell asleep on me. Oh, I was loving it! I was exhausted, but I couldn’t fall asleep because I was too busy soaking up all the sweetness.
Only moments after he fell asleep, Jason’s parents came over unexpectedly to see him. His dad hadn’t yet seen him and was hoping to meet him for the first time. So Jason came into the bedroom to try to get my sleeping baby from me.
“Can I take Jackson down to show my dad? He hasn’t seen him yet,” he asked, as nicely as possible.
I fixed my eyes on him and, in my exhausted delirium, I think I said something to the effect of, “You take him from me and I’ll bite your head off!” And if that wasn’t enough, I glared at him and issued my challenge: “Go ahead . . . take him if you want to. This is the first time he has really snuggled up with me, and I have been waiting for this moment. So if you want to make me really angry, then go ahead. But you really had better not.” And I stared at him.
The poor guy was so torn as he looked toward the door and toward me; back to the door and back to my evil eyes drilling into his skull. He wisely chose not to mess with my baby-time and my nap. And he went down to reluctantly break the news to his parents. This is how much cuddling with my kids means to me.
Well, I have to say that my whole spiritual life, I was like my last three kids when it came to resting in the Lord’s arms. I just couldn’t seem to do it. I wanted to know His care and the safety of His embrace, but I couldn’t relax there. He’d try to hold me when I was hurting or when life got too hard, but I’d fight Him every step of the way: trying to grab at things that I wanted (especially the control), fighting to do what I wanted to do, and pushing back from Him so I could keep my distance just a little bit.
Trying so hard all these years to be the proud, self-sufficient “adult” robbed God of the delight of being my Father and robbed me of the joy and comfort of being His child. To me, the Christian life was work and a tightrope act. I had to work hard to do it right because any small stumble and I would fall on my face. I never really felt the deep joy and satisfaction that came with my faith because I was too busy working so hard at it. And I was too scared to trust Him enough to fall into His arms and be held. That was just too much vulnerability and risk.
One thing that my children have taught me over the years is that I love being in the Motherhood mud-pit. I really enjoy being a mother. I really enjoy my children. I enjoy providing for them and taking care of them: meeting their needs and as many wants as I can, raising them on healthy food and godly values, and teaching them important lessons that will help them for life. And I want them to trust me to provide what I believe is best for them. I take this responsibility very seriously, even if they don’t appreciate it right now. (I’m hanging in there for when they’re older and can see the wisdom in my ways. Hmm? Kinda like what God does with me, I’m sure.)
As their mom, not only do I enjoy taking care of them, but I care about them deeply. I care about their feelings and about their thoughts. I enjoy being with them. I enjoy hugging them. I enjoy comforting them. I want to be let into their world and into their hearts, whether it’s a world of pain or a world of joy. I want to go through all of it with them. I want to be the one to celebrate with them or to wrap my arms around them when they hurt. I want to be there when their hearts are singing and their eyes are twinkling. And I want to be there when their hearts are broken and life confuses them.
Being included in their whole lives and being let into their hearts, these things are an honor to me, a joyful blessing and a privilege. Not a burden or just “my duty.” (I’ll tell you what, I better have a bunch of “Mom-mom’s boys” that get married to wonderful girls who want to move into the houses right next door to mine and come over every Sunday for dinner! Is it too early to start praying for that now?)
My oldest son, Kody, has not yet gone on a real roller-coaster. But with his designing mind, he has become really fascinated with them and how they are built. It’s been a passion of his lately, reading books and watching movies about them. And I have really looked forward to the day that he would get to ride one for real.
One day, my sister-in-law called to see if she could take him to Great America with her son. A wonderful offer! But you know what? I turned it down. Not only was Kody probably still a little too young and scared of fast things - (He thinks it’s scary to go too fast on a swing. Sorry, kiddo, but you do!) - but I really wanted to be there to see him ride one for the first time. I wanted to share that experience with him. If he loved it, I wanted to be there to see his excitement and his eyes light up. But if he hated it and got scared, I wanted to be the one to hug him and to comfort him. (Is that selfish?)
Even if I won’t grant the request or there’s a problem that I can’t do anything about, like hurtful words from a friend or a bad dream, I still want my children to come to me because I value the relationship and the closeness that it brings. I want to be there to wrap my arms around them and to hold them when they are broken or hurting. I love it when a kiss from Mommy makes the owie all better. And all I did was kiss it.
And I love it when something exciting happens and the first thing they do is start yelling for me, “Mom . . . Mooom! Guess what just happened?” And when they want a hug, I want to give it. (Which is why I never turn them away at night when they come into my room for “one last hug and kiss.” Someday, they won’t do that anymore!) I want to be there to share in their joys and the funny moments, along with the painful ones. And they don’t have to do anything to earn that. They are my children and I love them just because they are mine. Not because they are anything in particular. Just because . . . they are mine.
It would break my heart to know that they were suffering on the inside, but putting on a stiff upper lip to keep it hidden from me. It would make me sad to know that they were sharing all their joys with someone else, forgetting to include me. But, oh, how I do that to God all the time! Oh, how I have struggled with learning to be God’s child! With sharing all of my life with Him, the pain as well as the joy. With letting Him into my inner world! With believing that He loves me . . . just because . . . I am His.
John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
He so loved the world. He didn’t just love the world; He so loved the world. He so loved the world that He would die in our place before He would miss out on an eternal relationship with us. He knew that we would disappoint Him and hurt Him and fail Him, but He still so wanted a relationship with us that He made a way. He knew that there would be many, many people that would reject His gift of love and salvation, but an eternity spent with those who would choose Him was worth the price of dying on the cross. That is some amazing love!
And it’s an amazing love that I just didn’t trust for so long! Like I said, I didn’t like to cry on other people’s shoulders or run to their arms when I needed comfort. That felt very uncomfortable and foreign to me. And I couldn’t even do this with God. I didn’t live in the knowledge of His love enough to risk running to Him when I was hurting.
But by being a parent now, I’m beginning to understand how God must feel as a Father. As my Heavenly Father, He wants to be - He actually really wants to be - the one I run to when I am hurt or in pain, just as I want my kids to do that with me. He wants me to know the safety of His arms, just as I want my children to know the safety of mine. He enjoys holding me and spending time with me, just as I enjoy my “cuddle time” with my kids. And He wants me to enjoy it, too!
Somewhere along the way, God has helped me to see something that was blocking His love from getting through to me. I had been hurt by the divorces, and because of that I had put up the walls of fear between Him and me, as if He was responsible for the hurt and pain, as if He couldn’t be trusted in the same way that unreliable humans can’t be trusted. I had kept my distance from Him just a little bit because it was too risky to be vulnerable with anyone, even Him.
But God had never been responsible for any of the pain, insecurities, or fears in my life. Fallen people - including myself - and the problems of this world were what caused the initial pain. Not the Lord! Once I got this through my head, I began to realize that I didn’t have to fear Him. I didn’t have to fear Him or doubt Him or feel like it was too risky to be vulnerable around Him. He could be trusted. He wasn’t an unreliable, absent, earthly father. Although, I so often treated Him like one.
I didn’t need to protect myself from Him. I didn’t have to fight and squirm when He was trying to hold me. I didn’t have to keep some distance because He could be trusted with the deepest, hurting parts of my heart. I didn’t have to grab for the control because I knew that His hands were big enough to hold my life and my future. All that I had to do was learn to relax in His arms and be held.
But oddly enough, learning to relax can be a very difficult thing. You know, during this time of God’s silence I thought that I was waiting on God. But the longer I waited for Him, the more I realized that He was really waiting on me in so many ways. All this time, even in His silence, He had been holding onto me, just waiting for me to stop squirming. He had been waiting for me to get so tired of trying to do it myself that I discovered this deep need: I wanted to need Him. I wanted to give up “trying,” and to fall crying and exhausted into His arms and just be held. Whatever came my way, I wanted to know the comfort of His embrace. And this became the second life-changing prayer for me.
Not too long after the first life-changing prayer, I was sitting there on the edge of my bed crying. Again. (Really, I’m not a cry-baby. This was just a really long, hard time in my life.) I was crying about the confusion and pain of not knowing what to do about all these trials or how to do it. I was crying because I ached to hear from Him. But mostly, I was crying because I was tired!
For the first time in my life, I was truly tired of holding up my chin, of looking like I could do it all myself, of being the one with the answers. And I needed God in a new way. A way that was scary for me. My self-sufficiency always made me cry on my own shoulder. And I realized, as I struggled with the words of this second life-changing prayer, that I had always pushed away any attempt of His to wrap His arms around me when I was in pain. But I couldn’t hold myself up any longer!
I’m sure it must have been frustrating for Him to hold onto me all that time. But, unlike me with my kids, He never put me down. No matter how much I struggled or wrestled with Him, He’s always been there holding onto me. I just never knew how to melt into His embrace, how to rest in His arms with complete abandon and trust. And I never desired that. Until now!
But as the tears fell, a picture flashed in my mind. It was a picture of me just collapsing into the Lord’s arms in exhaustion, crying and being held. I had never done that before to anyone, except my seventh-grade friend and my husband (and even then only a very few times). How do you ask God for that? It felt so awkward. But I wanted that! I needed that! I didn’t want an answer anymore. I wasn’t crying out for a house or a miracle or my way. I was crying out for Him! I just wanted Him!
Could I risk putting myself out there, vulnerably and humbly, asking Him to hold me when I was a wreck and falling apart? Did it sound corny or humiliating? Could I really believe in (and accept) His unearned, unconditional love? Could I trust that He would catch me if I fell into His arms, even though He was still so silent? Or would the fear of being let down, abandoned, and falling flat on my face keep me from melting into His embrace?
That night as I cried, I didn’t have the energy to care anymore. I didn’t have the “fight” left in me to face life on my own. All I could do was cry out to God in all humbling honesty:
“I can’t do this anymore! I need to be held, Lord. I need to know that You are there and that You won’t let me go if I fall into Your arms. I don’t want to ask for anything else from You right now, Lord. I just need . . . more of You at this moment. And I don’t want You to be “just God” to me anymore. I need You to be my Heavenly Father. I can’t face these problems alone. I have no idea how to help Ryder’s teeth. And we can’t get a home on our own. I’m supposed to know what to do, I’m the parent. But I don’t! And I’m afraid! And right now, I just need to cry and be held. I can accept it if You won’t answer me - if I don’t get the house - but I couldn’t bear it if You let me fall. I just need You!”
For the first time in my life, I let down my stiff-arm that kept Him from getting too close and I fell into His embrace. And even though He wasn’t physically in the room with me, I tell you I could almost feel His arms wrap around me and hold me tight. I have seen Him work in my life before. I’ve seen His answers to prayer. I have Biblical knowledge and Christian experience. But this was the first time that I felt like I was just held by Him.
And He had waited so long for me to just ask. After all, if I was never willing to risk falling into His arms before, I could never learn that He would catch me. I had to fall before I could be caught. I had to be honest and vulnerable before I could open my heart to Him. I had to hand over the pain before He could heal it. And I had to be broken of my self-sufficiency and self-confidence before He could rebuild me as His child.
It was a long journey so far. And this prayer became another turning point in my life, but a moment that turned me toward Him. It was a moment that brought healing and that filled that empty ache that I had from the time I was eighteen and realized that I never had a “daddy.” Well, I had one now!
But, my goodness, this journey wasn’t over yet.