One moment I will never forget is standing with your daddy on our wedding day, singing It Is Well with My Soul. We’d just heard 1 John 1:8-2:3 and prayed a confession of sin, and there we stood with all the ceremonial white, tears in both our eyes as we sang that striking line – “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, O my soul!” We knew full well that we had no righteousness to claim as the standing for this new marriage and we wanted to be frank about it, so we stood up in front of our friends and began our wedding with those words.
I think today may be another moment I’ll never forget. My burdened and guilty soul smiled so much relief just now as I sat on your floor rocking you. You’d asked for one more song and I thought there could be none better to wash away our day than those words from that wedding day and so I sang them to you.
To say I worry obsessively about hurting you with my words is an understatement. I feel more strongly about this than I do about my hatred of spiders. Today there were several moments when I saw fear in you as I spoke, because I’d broken your trust and you didn’t know what to expect from my words. I was ungracious to you today and whined right back at you when you whined at me. I spoke unkindly to you, used the power of my voice and my privilege as your mother to intimidate you into obliging me. This is not something you’d experienced yet in your little life. I have to be humble and acknowledge that you will most certainly experience it again.
Today you were a pill. You whined endlessly and when I’d ask you to tell me what you wanted, trying to parse it out simply for you, you’d give me a blank stare until I stopped trying. I have no idea how to communicate with you, and today it’s felt useless to try and I’ve been so, so frustrated with you. I gave you a look or a word or spoke your name so many times today with a motive I can’t deny of trying to take it out on you, punish you.
But I wouldn’t say today was a bad day for us. For some reason it was hard for us both to honor God, to obey Him in our own unique ways. But we handled it by praying a lot. And every time I sinned against you I asked you to forgive me, told you I was sorry. I feel like I did it for me, on principle, because I don’t think you understand. Still, today was a good day because you got to see the gospel at work in our lives. The truth is, we are sinners. We can’t always love each other well, and the essential thing is not to muster up more strength and grace to do it right next time, it’s to acknowledge our sin and cling to Jesus because He loves us and promises to take our sin away if we ask Him.
Two weeks ago you pinched your hand in the closet door and you’ve had a blood blister ever since. Around the same time, I was teaching you the sign language for “Jesus” so you could learn to say “Jesus loves me.” But you can’t get past the “Jesus” part because when you point to your hand to make the sign you see that blood blister and get distracted, showing it to me with concern. You have no idea the depth here but I seize the moment anyway: “Jesus had a hurt on his hand too, when he died to take away our sins.” Ironic timing, this new sign and your little run-in with the closet door.
Sweet baby, this is the important stuff. I want so much not to hurt you, let you down, sin against you. But what I want even more is for you to understand what Jesus did for us – does for us. So I am choosing not to despair when I fall down and do that very thing I obsessively avoid like a phobia. I can’t waste time wishing I hadn’t made you sad today, instead I have to be thankful for the chance to model repentance and tell you how kind Jesus is to us.
I was sad anyway, as I dressed you for bed. I wanted to wish it away. So I did what I always do and I talked to you as though you could understand. All your life this has been a coping strategy for me: I talk to you like you get it, and I know that the more I do that, the sooner you will. But recently it’s been driving me crazy instead, because when I talk to you it just reminds me how frustrating our communication is since you still choose nothing but monosyllabic grunts. I joke about spending all my time with two people who don’t speak English, but it really doesn’t feel funny most of the time.
Anyway, there I was, talking to you. You were sitting on my lap seeming a little uncertain about how to interpret this latest message from Mommy: were you in trouble again? No, I was just telling you how sorry I was that I hurt you today, and how I want you to know that Mommy loves you, and how I promise always to seek your forgiveness when I do the wrong thing so that you’ll be able to trust me and not be afraid. I stopped talking and gave you a squeeze and you started squirming to stand up and I felt a twinge of despair: “Off he goes to play and he has no idea what’s going on.” To my astonishment, you stood up not to walk away but to turn around and climb into my lap and squeeze me as hard as you could. Oh, how I love you.