Watching my son through the rearview mirror this morning on the way to school, I found myself thinking: I wish you could know how much I love you. He wasn’t doing anything particular to elicit this love. He was actually in a pretty foul mood, rumpled and grumpy in the backseat with the weight of the day on his little eight-year-old shoulders. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. If he could, he would see that all of his struggles are unnecessary because I could help him if he’d only let me.
He would see that no amount of grump or grouch could take away the joy he brings to me just by his very presence. He would see how his awkward run, backpack swinging behind him, makes me smile. He would see the charm of his too-big two front teeth. He would see how his beautiful, ever-sticky little boy hands look like his father’s.
He doesn’t see any of that though. He sees himself through the lens of the world, all scratched up and dirty. And it hurts his little soul. But I know who he really is.
We started out our day the same way we always do. I woke up late. I stumbled to his room. I stepped on legos in the dark. I sang to him.
Let me just say that being a convincing perky morning mom through my woke-up-late-in-the-middle-of-a-dream adrenaline rush was not so easy. I tried, but the lump under the covers did not respond. I rubbed it’s back. Nothing. I kissed it’s little noggin. Nothing. Finally, I peeled back the blanket and said “I’m not leaving until I see some eyeballs and hear some words.”
The lump under the blanket peeped one eye open and said “Crap.”
As it turned out ‘crap’ was a fitting word for the day because on this particular morning there was a knot in his shoelace.
“Ugghhh!!!!!! I can’t even TIE MY SHOES!!!!” Shoes hit the dresser with an angry clunk.
“Bring me your shoes and I’ll help you.”
“No! It’s too humiliating.”
Humiliating seems like an awfully strong word to apply to shoe-tying. But it’s not about the shoes. It’s about measuring up to everyone else. At eight years old, my son is late joining the shoe tying club and he is keenly aware of it. Never mind all of the other wonderful things he can do. He tests grade levels ahead in math and reading. He understands abstract concepts like the difference between communism and socialism and the conversion of mass to energy. He’s eight. Eight. Yet he still sees himself as deficient because of a simple struggle with shoe tying that, in his mind, marks him as different from everyone else. And he is too humiliated by it to even get up and go to the one who can help him.
I’ve been there myself.
Life is full of hurts that leave their mark on us. Some hurts are just the common frustrations of everyday life. Some are things we’ve done to ourselves. Some are superficial wounds that leave us tripping over our own shoelaces. And some hurts leave a wound so deep that it cuts to the very core of us, forever changing our gait.
But when we take these wounds, big or small, into ourselves and let them define us, we are in effect saying that the world knows who we are better than God. All too often we let the shame of past hurts keep us from turning to a loving God. Salvation? Ok. We buy that. But an abundant life? Grace? God’s love and friendship? Nope. Not for us. We are God’s red-headed step children, convinced that he is letting us in to Heaven on a technicality, but never believing that he would really want us. That he would love us.
Why do we think like this? Because we have taken it upon ourselves to decide that God was wrong. All of the rest of creation might be good, but not us. We are faulty. We have decided that we are, at the very core of ourselves, unlovable. Someone once made us feel like trash and we agreed. Someone degraded us and we assumed that we deserved it. Someone told us that we are shameful and we decided to believe them. And now we are too humiliated to go to the only one who can help us.
The only one who knows who we really are.
Eve was first to eat forbidden fruit. She rejected God’s wisdom and chose her own way. The result was shame. And so she hid.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8
Notice though, that God came to the garden looking for Eve. He knew what she had done. “Where are you?,” He called.
“No!” she said. “It’s too humiliating.”
In the book of Jeremiah, God’s people had abandoned him and worshipped false gods. They turned away from their father who had led them to the promised land and they chose their own way.
My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and they have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Jer 2:13
They replaced the living God with their own broken constructs, rejected the image of God for the image of world. Like Eve, they had eaten tainted fruit. And like Eve, they were separated from God. But love wholly triumphs and God has made a way for His exiled children to come back to Him.
Bring me your woes and I’ll help you.
The love your Father has for you is real. Trust him. Seek him. Receive his wisdom when life gives you lies. Look to God instead of the world and believe that you are treasured even when you can’t feel it. Trust that you, at the very center of who you are, are lovable simply because God loves you.