I have three biological children. My oldest is a boy. My youngest is a girl. And the one stuck right in the middle? ALL BOY.
Ben is good-looking. He has big brown eyes, thick brown hair, olive skin, a muscular little frame, a soft, husky voice, and a smile that could melt a heart of stone. He’s tough and athletic and could throw a mean spiral at the age of five. He can kick a soccer ball straight past the goalie and hit a line drive straight through center-field.
He is our peace-maker. He’s the one who responds, “Yes sir!” and jumps to it when dad calls out an order. He’s the one who says, “Yes ma’am!” and grabs the heaviest bag of groceries so mom doesn’t have to carry it. He is the one who will hand over his working toy to Sara because hers won’t work.
No, he isn’t perfect. He and his sister are generally either partners in crime or mortal enemies (that is, until he makes her cry…. then all bets are off, and she wins.) He frequently feels gypped and makes it known that being the middle child means he gets the short end of everything. He has a mischievous streak and likes to push other people’s buttons, especially his siblings’. When it’s time to clean his room, everything goes under the dresser or the bed until I make him pull it all out.
Although he hasn’t done it to date, if someone was going to ball up their fist and punch the bully square in the nose, it would probably be Ben. He is the one who held our 3.5 pound dog up in the air and dropped him to see if he would land on his feet like a cat. Yes, he did, and no, the dog didn’t. I reiterate – he is ALL BOY. (Thankfully, no bones were broken, and the dog has finally gone back to liking Ben…)
However, when I drop something, Ben is there in a flash picking it up. Teachers pair him up with the new kid in class because he will make them feel welcome. He’ll dig through his own money when another student doesn’t have enough. He can’t stand to see someone’s feelings hurt – even if he’s the one who hurt them. If his older brother has lost a Lego piece, Ben digs through his own to find a replacement. He’ll give his sister practically anything she wants, because he can’t stand to see her cry. If someone’s hurt, he’ll stop what he’s doing to go take care of them. He adores babies and toddlers and makes it his business to entertain them. Little ones gravitate to him. He has an absolute heart of gold.
You would think that a child like that would have tons of friends. But Ben has very few. And my heart struggles often to understand why. In the car recently, he said to me, “Hey Mom? Do you know so-and-so?” Yes, I know him. “Well, he told me I couldn’t be his friend. Then he let another kid he hardly knows be his friend, but he wouldn’t let me.” This was nothing new. He has faced rejection after rejection – kids picking at him or calling him names, pushing him in the mud during recess. He has cried in my arms asking “how-come” nobody likes him. We have talked through it, prayed through it, reminded him how precious he is to us and God – you name it, we’ve done it. So by the time this conversation happened, I was just done with the mean kids.
As I listened and saw the look of hurt and dejection on his face, I was stabbed in the heart – and angry. (Yep – mad momma.) As a mature, grown-up mommy who has to teach her children how to properly handle rejection, my response was something about kids not always meaning what they say, and you can’t be best friends with everyone, and we have to be kind to others even when they aren’t kind to us. On the inside, however, this momma was ready to track down said mean child – and all other mean children – and give them the trouncing they apparently needed (insert angry face)! Forgive my humanity, but I am just being honest. That’s my baby, and momma-bear was riled.
I dropped him off at VBS, and as I was driving away, I kept thinking about how hurt he was and how upset it made me. I thought about the fact that I can’t always protect my kids, and that they will suffer hurt – some way worse than the hurts I was so angry about. They will lose friends, face rejection, have broken hearts, suffer grief, lose their direction, and ultimately have to cry out to God. My children WILL SUFFER, and there isn’t a thing I can do to change it. So, of course, I began to cry. And then I began to pray for my children.
As I was thinking, and crying, and praying (all while driving, btw), it dawned on me how deeply my children’s hurts were effecting me as a human mother; and in the next instant, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart…
“That is how I feel about you. Your hurts effect me that deeply. Melanie, I love you. Please, stop thinking that I somehow disapprove of you. Please stop thinking I am detached and somehow not close. I am not looking for reasons to punish you. I am not waiting up here for you to make your next mistake, and I am not tired of forgiving you! I am THAT KIND OF PARENT – the kind who cries for your hurts, who gets angry when someone harms you, who feels your confusion, and hurts with you when you lose direction and forget to turn to Me for help; who wants to gather you up in My arms and shield you from every fear and every attack. I see everything good about you. I am proud of you. You are MY CHILD.”
Why is it so hard to believe that God loves us? Not just an over-all, all-encompassing, general “love for the world” kind of love, but an intimate, father-child love, between just Him and us. His love is personal, protective, nurturing, forgiving, second-chancing (and third, and fourth…), everything we feel about our own children.
Yet every time I mess up or feel I have not been doing my best, I feel disapproved of, ashamed to come before Him, distanced, and not good enough. I feel as though He must surely be angry with me and sick-to-death of my imperfections, and just done with it all.
Yes, there are times when my kids’ constant repeat of the same offense begins to wear on me. I do get frustrated with them and a little tired of the same problems over and over. But here’s the difference: I am human. At best, my love is imperfect. God IS love. He is PERFECT love, and with perfect love, there is no fear of punishment, for perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).
I realize that not all of us struggle with believing that we are so perfectly loved by a perfect God Who is perfect love. But being a naturally “guilty” person (you know, the first-born who internalizes every problem in the world and feels the need to fix it), this is my greatest struggle in life. It is a struggle for me to believe that God has good things for me – that I am completely forgiven and He remembers my sins no more. I live life with the feeling of constantly “paying for” my past sins.
Yet God wants me to live free. He said, “I came to give you life, and life more abundantly!” Living in fear of retribution is not an abundant life, and it is not the life God intended for His children. Do our children live in constant fear of punishment for past mistakes? Hopefully not. As parents, we understand that they are learning. They are growing. They have not yet arrived, and we don’t expect them to get it all right. In the same way, we have not yet arrived either. God does not expect us to get it all right. We are learning. We are growing. He is perfecting us. We are not perfect yet.
And so, He lovingly reminds me, through my love for my own children, that I am free. That I am forgiven. That I can simply live as His child with all of the comforts and privileges that comes with.
And as much as I love my little man, He loves both of us more. He has plans for good, and not for evil, for both of us. He will bring Ben just the right friends to enrich his life, and He will be the One to walk him through heart-ache and rejection, hold his hand, and keep Ben’s heart turned toward Him.
While he is little, I can protect the best I know how. I can comfort, I can reassure, and I can build his confidence at home. But I have to remember that he is ultimately God’s, and it is God Who will best heal his hurts, bind his wounds, and carry him through life.
This same precious God Who is my Father is my son’s Father, too. Patient, loving, caring, nurturing, and protecting. Abba.
Thank You, Daddy God, for Your soothing, healing words to my weary soul. You are too good to me. ❤
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. ~Psalm 103:13
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. ~Romans 8:15-16
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. ~Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)