“I didn’t know this when I was your age, son” I said.
A look of sadness and surprise flickered in his eyes. “Why Mom?” he asked implying a second question…How can that be?
“Well, no one ever told me that.” I replied.
I had just finished telling him for the umpteenth time how much God adores him, knows everything about him, and has amazing things planned for him. When we finished praying I pulled the covers up around his shoulders and watched as he nestled his face into his pillow and closed his eyes…and smiled. After covering his perfect little face with another round of kisses and another whispered “I love you” I turned out the light and closed the door.
I stood in the hall picturing that smiling happy boy falling asleep with such contentment, and bit my lip trying to keep the tears from stubbornly filling my eyes. You see, when I was 8 my life looked nothing like his. I didn’t have a room I remember because we moved so many times none of the rooms stuck in my memory. What I can remember is parents fighting and separating, learning to smoke cigarettes, being left with total strangers who most people wouldn’t trust…for good reason, each parents newest “flings”, grubby clothes and roach infested apartments. I remember one of the schools we went to giving us shoes because ours were so full of holes. My mother would tell us that she loved us, but somehow that never chased away the feeling of fear I carried around like some kids carried a stuffed animal. I was always very aware that we were “different”. Sleeping on a dirty mattress on the floor with maybe a blanket or a sleeping bag never registered with me as a normal alternative to the bright pink four-poster beds I would see on tv. Huddling around the open oven for heat because my moms boyfriend drank away the money that week and the gas bill didn’t get paid made me scared and worried. I was very aware of the feeling I had…I was not worth taking care of. Like so many, I desperately wanted to be loved and I would spend my life looking for it, from anyone who was willing to look AT me, instead of past me. The problem was, I had no idea what love was or should look like.
At 19 with a start like that, you can imagine the condition of my heart. Even now when I imagine my younger self, I always see that dirty little blonde girl with uneven pigtails and my hand-me-down clothes that never fit right trying to get attention…any attention. Then I was told that I was loved. And not just any kind of love, the kind that puts aside it’s own interests even to point of accepting death…so I could live. I had heard “I love you” many times by my parents, boys that had ulterior motives, and even friends but I had never experienced love that was sacrificial. That love, the love of Jesus Christ, was enough to stop me in my tracks. It is a love that throws open the doors of your heart and exposes even the deepest secret and every lonely place that light has never shone. His love nurtured my starved heart, and whispered “You. Are. Precious.”
That kind of love changes everything about a person.
Just like being offered water when parched, I drank His message in and allowed him to heal my wounds and make me whole. 1 John 3:1 says “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”. To be pursued was the dream of my heart that I would suppress with the understanding that girls like me are not sought after. But the Lord decided I was worth it and …”while I was still a sinner,Christ died for me”. There’s a beautiful story in Luke 7:36-50 (you should read it, it’s really good) where a woman is weeping over Jesus’ feet and he explains that since she had been forgiven much, she loved much. Well, that is me. My response toChrist’s love and forgiveness is a reckless abandonment to Him, His work, and His people. He tells the woman in Luke “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”. And that is what He has given me. Peace. That is what the love of Christ does for a person…gives them a solid understanding of who they are, where they’ve come from, and where they’re going.
I’ve heard it said about parenting “Give what you never got”. I am so blessed and honored to give my boys the most important thing I could ever give, the message that they are LOVED by God. I know that truth changes a person.
Next time…what the love of a good man can do!