“I DOUBT THAT YOU LOVE ME!”
She screams this in my face. Her face, scrunched. Eyes clamped shut.
We learn a lot things in the stumbling act of parenting. How high the sky is, what happens when you pour salt on ice cubes and the magic of gooblick.
And we learn what it means to show love. To give love. To be a messenger of what God's alive and breathing love still looks like.
So when I’m walking slowly up the stairs, and I can hear her disappointed tears muffled in her pink and blue quilted pillows, I pray “Give me grace to see what you’re doing in her heart.”
I’m tired. Dinner is barely finished. The chicken was still hot and the rolls still steaming when we sent her to her room. The husband and I exchanged the “you or me” look at the table and I volunteered. “I’ve got this.” He nods and gives me the half-smile. The "You've got this" twinkle. He stacks my dirty plate on top of his.
Each way we turn right now we see life and hearts, messy and unfinished, needing lots of cleansing.
I'm outside of her door and I tap lightly against the wood. A tiny paper airplane swings on a piece of string. A little note on the door says "stay away" and another says "we are bise" (busy).
“Sweetheart, can we talk?”
She grunts. She’s curled into a ball on her bed, but her furrowed brow and hazel eyes are on me when I open the door. She’s angry. Today, we didn’t show up for the book fair. She reminds me of this again. An absolute parenting fail. Again. “I thought you were going to BE THERE!” she screams. And then sobs. Her snot is mixing into her tears, but I don’t mind. Mothers usually don’t. I slowly wrap my arms around her squirming body.
“I know,” I say. “I’m so sorry we disappointed you today. We will go tomorrow.” But this does little to assuage any anger. I am holding the fraying ends of a child who probably just needs to go to sleep. It's been a full afternoon of this. Attitudes unraveling, words spit out in anger, disrespect, cold shoulders and ignoring words of correction. All of the characteristics that children exhibit without hesitation. All of the things we do as adults but pretend aren’t that bad.
“LET ME GO!” She screams, but I say no. I’m not in a wrestle of power here. I’m in a wrestle of love. And until she sees that, I’m not letting go. She twists inside of my arms, free to wiggle out in any direction, but staying, determined to tell me she wants me to leave her alone. She arches her back and I continue to whisper quietly, “I love you. So much. We love you. We love you. Whether you’re good, or bad, angry, sad. We love you. I love you.”
This goes on for at least 10 minutes. I’m sweating and near to tears. The fight for love is sometimes not letting go. Sometimes it's just presence. Tonight it's consistency. Beneath all of the attitudes and anger today, she really needs nurture. Maybe it's the Spirit showing me this; maybe it's my intuition. But something inside of me says, "Don't let go."
She’s screaming at me, red-faced. “I DOUBT THAT YOU LOVE ME! I DOUBT IT!” This last "doubt" is drawn out and tongue shaking loud. My ears are ringing.
But then I see it all, the messy tears, the wrestle, the fists raised toward Heaven and I’m seeing all of us, shouting at God that we doubt it.
I doubt it all.
I doubt that you love me. That you remember me. That you’ll stick it out to the end of this fight.
I doubt you’re long-suffering enough. I doubt you have the time. I doubt you. Let me go.
But he doesn’t. And I didn’t.
And suddenly her arms went from battering fists to gripping me tightly.
She's sobbing now, her body in heaves. “You do love me!” I hear in my neck. She’s sweaty and snotty, but she’s almost laughing. “You really do love me!” I cry, she cries and the fight turns to rest. Here we talk about what went wrong earlier. We talk about her hurting heart. We talk about how we all make mistakes. How mom and dad make mistakes too. How we apologize because we love each other. We don’t want broken relationships. Not here. Not in this home.
Today, I woke up before dawn in hopes to eek out some quiet moments before the day’s running began. But the noise of my coffee grinder stirred the little person upstairs and she walked into the kitchen, sleep-drunk and eyes half open.
“You love me so much,” she says, pushing her nose into my hip. “I love you so much.”
I squeeze her still bed-warm body, "Yeah birdie. I love you."
Today we begin in love. Today we’re determined to remember that above all. We are not wrestling for position or to win battles. We aren't fighting against a tired God. We aren’t beating our fists against a moody or forgetful King. Today, we’re kids. We're born desperately wanting to believe in true love but age with the begging ache that says "Prove it." Sometimes we all want to know that there is someone who is holding on even when we let go. No person here on earth can promise this forever. Not one.
So, we find our way back into the love of Jesus that doesn’t just soothe us and comfort us, but fights to hold on, long after our strength has screamed her wild energy out, red-faced and sweaty.
The day is new and we start again.