Sam is two. There are lots of things I tell him not to do. Some days it feels like all I do is say "no!" in varying degrees of sternness. Sometimes I turn around in the middle of telling him not to do something and find him doing that EXACT thing ... like reaching up to touch a hot burner, or pushing his sister, or turning on the TV. Gah. Seriously, I need a recording of myself saying "no, Sam" on repeat, just so I can save my voice. I have good reasons for saying no - he'll get hurt, develop an ugly character, or turn his brain to mush - but Sam doesn't always see the reasons. He just hears the "no", that burden I place on him ... and sometimes decides to disobey.
When he gets hurt, he flies to me. Tears welling and overflowing. Full-on wailing. He heaves himself against me and wraps his arms around me and cries snot and tears all over my neck.
And I coldly say "you were warned!" and walk away ...
No! Ugh, it hurt me just to write that - of course not, a thousand times, no!
When my darling boy is hurt, I comfort him and hold him and kiss him, and rub his back and smooth his hair and wash his face and when his sobbing is done and his breathing has returned to normal and all that awful tension is gone from his body, I talk with him and remind him again about obeying mama.
And that's God's heart for us too. Jesus told us so - you remember the parable of the prodigal son? I like to think of it as the parable of the waiting father. God provides for us and teaches us and when we disobey Him He is always waiting to wrap us up in His great arms and comfort us while we cry. Yes, even (especially?) when our hurt is our own fault.
A friend was sharing a piece of her struggle with me recently, and she confessed that she didn't feel like she could pray about it, because she felt like her burden was her fault, the natural consequence of her own actions. And she broke into tears.
And I cried with her.
And then I laughed, because there is one thing motherhood is teaching me and it is this: God's tender, kind, dear heart is always loving His children.
Yes, even this God who gives us commandments, laws, and makes His expectations clear in His word. His laws - much like my rules for Sam - are for our blessing. Not because He's power-hungry, or gets a kick out of saying no. No. Because He is kind and good and blesses us and protects us and cares about our character and peace and comfort and joy. That's why He gives us crosses. To make us strong, to keep us steady, to build us into good things.
It wouldn't be called a cross if it wasn't difficult. I don't have to tell Sam "you can't leave the table until you eat this bowl of blackberries!" because he loves blackberries. So I don't burden him with that rule. But I do burden him with "you must have a nap" because even Sam doesn't like himself when he is overtired. I do burden him with "don't push your sister" because I want him to enjoy a loving relationship with her (and be able to get along with other kids), so I require him to practice self-control. I do burden him with boredom, because it gives him a chance to think and wonder and create. The cross he bears - the rules he is given - will strengthen his character and shape his personality and help him to grow into someone good and loving and intelligent and strong. It's hard - but worth it.
My mom and dad and aunt and uncle visited recently. When they were here, we got talking about our crosses - the particular burdens and struggles that God has given each of us to bear. My aunt said that if everyone's crosses were thrown down in a heap, and we got to choose which one to bear, she'd choose her own again. It made me think about my own cross - and I would too. Some of the struggles I carry, you already know about. Miscarriages. PCOS. The ebb and flow of motherhood exhaustion. And some burdens are private - heaviness that God lays on me alone, to bear before Him and grow strong in the carrying. Sometimes I drop the burden, try to shuck off that yoke - and get hurt. My own fault. And I find myself hurting, crying - and I knew better.
And I run to my Lord.
Sometimes I don't even have the words.
I just cry in the presence of the Comforter. (Oh, God is kind! He is the Comforter!) I throw myself into His presence with my ugly tears and incoherent wails and everything.
And He loves me and He cares for me and He forgives me and He washes my face and kisses my cheek and when the storm subsides He reminds me to obey Him.
Ah. Some days, Sam's constant disobedience is my cross. Vava's determination to explore the world one bump at a time with her precious bald head is my cross (and hers ... :S). Being so far away from my family is my cross. When it gets heavy, tiring, overwhelming, I take so much comfort, place so much hope, in the assurance that God is crafting me into someone good and loving and intelligent and strong.
My So-wise Father ... thank You for loving me.
My cross-carrying mamas ... keep on with your rules and your comfort and the thousand toddlerly repetitions. They'll learn.
My burdened friends ... come cry in the arms of the Comforter. Even when it's your own fault.