I love my children more than You.
Maybe it was while my eldest was being knit together, as I’m fairly confident it was not love at first site – that cone shaped head of his freaked me out! Maybe it was when #2 came along, bald far too long if you ask me but given from the start a disarming smile. Maybe it’s just been a gradual alteration, a slow attrition. Honestly, I’m not sure when it happened, or how.
But I can remember when my heart and soul were on fire for you. I can remember when a passion to know and share your love seemed the animating motion in my life, the foundation even for my vocational calling. Perhaps it is the rigors and daily grind of that vocational calling, or the gradual and initially imperceptible shift from a calling to love and serve You to tasks and duties serving the institutional expectations of others…
I love my children, God. Whole-heartedly, fiercely. Yes, there are times I’m frayed and frustrated and upset, and might think it because of something they did or said. But, truth be told, I know; I know they are just children, they are still learning, they make bad choices. Hell, I still make bad choices.
Even so… they are amazing, magical, miraculous. I find joy in their joy, no matter how simple; when they are happy, smiling, laughing, it is contagious; their happiness reaches down into my soul. And, God, I know heartache in their sorrows, however seemingly insignificant they seem to my adult perspective, there are times when their cries over something, anything, wring pain from my heart that even surprises me.
They are these little physical miraculous hyperactive wonders that beam and belch and bully, sing and sulk and scurry, talk and tattle and tantrum. Some times my heart is just so incredibly full … in, for, because of, with, through them!
I want so much for them to know joy and peace and security. I want their lives to be full and rich with the good things that really matter, and, yes, along with them I confuse that to include things – the many little shiny gods our consumer driven culture suggest will fill the void, will bring us happiness, will show I love them.
You know, I remember being sick at home one day. It was a school day, and I was miserable. When my father came home that day, he came in to check on me. And he had something – a Transformer, Starscream. For no reason in particular – just that he had been thinking of me and hoped I might know some joy and comfort when I wasn’t.
I understand that so much, now, God. And the strength of my love for my children – not just familial affection, but my earnest desire to do whatever I can to bring good into their lives – surprises me. And it seems so much more real than the love I have always professed for you.
And in this season, we celebrate that you came to us as a child; that you gave yourself – and something of yourself but distinct, so like a child – to us. You gave your Son that we might know your love.
I am awed by that. I don’t think I could give my child in such a way; perhaps because of selfishness rather than love. But, irregardless, you, of whom my own love for my children is but a poor, shabby reflection, you whose love for your own Son must so far exceed anything I know… you gave. You gave it up.
I want for my kids a full life, free of pain and sorrow; you knowingly gave your Son into a world that would cause him to know such. Sorrow for the people around him, upon whom he had compassion as a shepherd for lost sheep. Pain from the betrayal of friends; from the rejection of the people; from the merciless murder of the powerful.
We speak of “your love,” particularly for us. And it must be great. And my love for you is such a small, shabby thing; even compared to that for my children.
I love my children more than you. I confess, but do not know if or how to repent of it. I confess, sharing that in my heart I wish I loved you more, that I wish nothing stood between us, but knowing otherwise. Humble? Yes. Penitent? I don’t know. But seeking to be honest.
Please receive what I have to give, imperfect as it is – for even my love for my children is imperfect, sometimes lying a bit buried beneath anger or frustration. In this season, even as I prepare to pepper my children with toys that will disappear but from their memories 30 years from now – and yet is part of how I know to share love and joy with them – receive what I have for you. Receive it like I will receive whatever strange gifts my own children might give me, with joy even in their simple or imperfect nature. And continue to invite me to grow in love and joy and peace, even as I do with the little ones entrusted to me.