I think of it, quickly and brief, as I flop next to him. I dip down and look into his green-gray-blue eyes, muddy waters, a reflection of his Daddy and of me. And I say it quiet and soft, kissing his still-baby-almost cheek.
“You know I love you?”
He nods, remains of so sorry tears floating close.
I explain why he received the punishment he did and did he understand why? He nodded. He knew he had crossed the line and been disciplined. And he knew, with me holding his hand and smoothing his hair and kissing that face that I had a part in making - he knew he still had Mama’s love.
And as I moved back to the kitchen, back to chores and left him to the delights of Mickey Mouse, I thought of it still, of a greater Voice, bending low and whispering in my tired ear, “You know I love you?” My deep breathed sigh rattled low to my chipped-nail-polished toes.
Yes, I know, but...
“You know I love you?”
The insistence. The smirk that I imagined touches His face as He looks at His weary, feeble, messed up, selfish little kids. We say we know, but we continue on in the way we were going. We don’t stop. We don’t let the relief touch. We just take it quickly, like just another gift on a birthday full of other gifts, instead of approaching it as a special surprise, found in the mailbox on a day when we desperately needed something. Anything. And we weren’t counting on anything being there, anyway.
But it was.
It was there this morning when I hauled the boys into the van. Let’s go to Target. Let’s go anywhere. Just lets not stay home where I’m too tempted to let my humanity show and too tempted to use my outside voice inside. As I backed out of the garage and lowered the door, I said a firm, forceful prayer. Prayed for safety. Prayed for a good morning. Prayed for Daddy who was working hard. And prayed for forgiveness for Mama being so crabby.
Nothing like having your 2.5 year old repeating your prayer verbatim to make you feel like a complete heel.
I said it strong and sure, “Amen!” closing the door on that chapter of the day. I asked Joel if he was going to say, “Amen!”, too, I needed him to - and he did, all soft and serious. All business. Helping me push the door closed and start again. And what I heard in my stacked-to-the-sky failing heart, as I took a deep, clean breath, was:
“You know I still love you, right, Mama?”
It’s the phone call that comes when your nerves are raw and your insecurities are dancing large.
It’s little arms around my leg, hugging and asking for a Kleenex.
It’s rosy cheeks post-sleep. It’s a husband supporting my deep-seated dreams and my heart. It’s in-laws who just love, love, love. It’s new friends and old friends. It’s sunshine warmth on a cold day. It’s finding a just-right basket for toys, for play. It’s clean dishes and soft pj’s and enough to keep me busy and more than enough to feed my soul. It’s coffee at 5 a.m. when you have to give up on the idea of sleep because kids will be kids.
It’s arms around my neck and a little voice going, “Awww.” as he snuggles against me. Aww, it’s Mommy. Aww, she’s back. He pats my shoulder and tells me my glasses are nice.
Unconditional love. I offer it to my boys, to my husband, to my friends, to my family.
And only because God offered it first to me. I've done nothing to deserve it, to earn it. I'm the two year old, sitting on the couch, sulking over a discipline that I feel is unfair or a punishment undeserved. I'm the one sucking my thumb in a corner.
I'm the one kicking dirt and trashing blessings. I'm the ungrateful. I sink low into the cushions, shame heavy and wonder if I'll get back up. I know I'm not the only one how messes up. Who yells too loud. Who wants to run away from duties and don't even think about talking to me about doing my job with a joyful heart, alright?!
But then God sits down next to me. Takes my hand. Touches my cheek that He created. And He asks, hey, honey, do you understand why that had to happen that way? Do you understand I put you in time out? And we nod, honest and regretful. We know the wrong. We know the better we wanted to choose but didn't. It's not okay, but it is.
"You know I still love you, right?"
"You clothed me
with skin and flesh,
and knit me together
with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life
and steadfast love,
And your care has
preserved my spirit..."
~ Job 10:11-13