Sunday, June 1, 2014

6. From Step-Child to Child

(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com.  On this blog, it starts at the bottom of the June posts with “Like a Child.”)

            Learning to be God’s child - after fighting it for so long - did not come naturally to me.  While I was beginning to understand that I had been a step-child to Him all those years, I was still a little unsure of how to be His child.  What does being a child look like?  God was showing me that honesty and transparency were a major part of it, but there was more.  I needed to move from a relationship based on fear to one based on love.  But how do you let others love you when you are used to protecting yourself from vulnerability and closeness?
    
            As someone who didn’t like to rely on others, I also didn’t like to cry on other people’s shoulders.  I don’t like to go to others when I’m in pain.  I don’t ask for hugs.  I don’t collapse into people’s arms crying.  I can honestly count on one hand how many times that has happened.  And one of those times was in seventh grade when I cried on the shoulder of a friend because I wanted to quit volleyball.  The coach always played favorites with her daughter and her daughter’s friends.  And I was not one of her daughter’s friends.  But after seventh grade, those times were even fewer and farther between.  For me, that kind of thing was humiliating.  A sign of weakness.  And just plain pathetic. 
            Oh, I don’t mind being the one that other people come to when they are hurting.  I like that role.  I like being the comforter, the one with the answers and the open arms.  I really have a heart for hurting people and for trying to make them feel loved and cared for. 
            But when I am in pain?  Well, I just suck it up and march on with my head held high.  I figure things out in my head and sort out my pain that way.  And I didn’t really need anyone’s, including God’s, embrace or comfort because I could do it myself.  Instead of just crumbling before Him, I would try harder to put up a strong, responsible front.  I didn’t need God as my comforter.  Provider, yes.  But comforter, no. 
            Needing people means you could get let down or hurt.  Needing people means learning to live without all the control.  Needing people means being vulnerable.  And I hated those things.  I was okay with Him being God.  But I wouldn’t let myself need more than that.  And not only that, He didn’t have to bother Himself with me.  I was fine with “whatever.”  I was used to “whatever.”  Good step-children are like that.   
            But as I shared in the last post, I was learning that I had done it wrong all this time.  But I didn’t really know any better.  I didn’t have a dad that I was ever completely comfortable with, especially not with my pain.  They could be providers and they could be buddies, but to seek comfort from them and cry in their arms when I was hurting?  Well, that would just be awkward and humiliating. 
            But to really be a child meant not only putting myself out there completely and honestly, but it meant going to Him when I was in pain, instead of nursing my wounds in private.  When all was falling down around me, I needed to run to the safety of His arms and fall down exhausted into His embrace, trusting Him to catch me.  I never had that with a dad.  This wasn’t easy for me to learn.   
            When my first son was born, I could tell instantly that he was a snuggler.  He loved nothing more than just sitting by my side or being carried around as I did my housework.  And when I held him, he would just melt into my arms and linger there.  He enjoyed every minute of it.  And so did I!     
            But my next three were squirmers.  The kind of babies that when you held them, they would fight you - squirming to grab things, trying to do what they wanted, or sitting way back in your arms, instead of just relaxing against you.  I tried and tried to find ways to cuddle with them, but they were just too busy to relax with me. 
            Well, I have to say that my whole spiritual life, I was like my last three kids when it came to resting in the Lord’s arms.  I just couldn’t seem to do it.  I wanted to know His care and the safety of His embrace, but I couldn’t relax there.  He’d try to hold me when I was hurting or when life got too hard, but I’d fight Him every step of the way: trying to grab at things that I wanted (especially the control), fighting to do what I wanted to do, and pushing back from Him so I could keep my distance just a little bit.   
            Trying so hard all these years to be the proud, self-sufficient “adult” robbed God of the delight of being my Father and robbed me of the joy and comfort of being His child.  To me, the Christian life was work and a tightrope act.  I had to work hard to do it right because any small stumble and I would fall on my face.  I never really felt the deep joy and satisfaction that came with my faith because I was too busy working so hard at it.  And I was too scared to trust Him enough to fall into His arms and be held.  That was just too much vulnerability and risk.   
            One thing that my children have taught me over the years is that I love being a mother.  I really enjoy my children.  I enjoy providing for them and taking care of them.  And I want them to trust me to provide what I believe is best for them.  I take this responsibility very seriously, even if they don’t appreciate it right now.  (I’m hanging in there for when they’re older and can see the wisdom in my ways.  Hmm?  Kinda like what God does with me, I’m sure.) 
            As their mom, not only do I enjoy taking care of them, but I care about them deeply.  I care about their feelings and about their thoughts and what happens to them.  I enjoy being with them.  I want to be let into their world and into their hearts, whether it’s a world of pain or a world of joy.  I want to go through all of it with them.  I want to celebrate the good times with them, and I want to wrap my arms around them when they hurt.  Being included in their whole lives and being let into their hearts . . . these things are an honor to me, a joyful blessing and a privilege.  Not a burden or just “my duty.” 
            And even if I won’t grant the request or there’s a problem that I can’t do anything about, like hurtful words from a friend or a bad dream, I still want my children to come to me because I value the relationship and the closeness that it brings.  I want to be there to share in their joys and the funny moments, along with the painful ones.  And they don’t have to do anything to earn that.  They are my children and I love them just because they are mine.  Not because they are anything in particular.  Just because . . . they are mine.   
            It would break my heart to know that they were suffering on the inside, but putting on a stiff upper lip to keep it hidden from me.  It would make me sad to know that they were sharing all their joys with someone else, forgetting to include me.  But, oh, how I do that to God all the time!  Oh, how I have struggled with learning to be God’s child!  With sharing all of my life with Him, the pain as well as the joy.  With letting Him into my inner world!  With believing that He loves me . . . just because . . . I am His. 
            John 3: 16: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
            He so loved the world.  He didn’t just love the world; He so loved the world.  He so loved the world that He would die in our place before He would miss out on an eternal relationship with us.  He knew that we would disappoint Him and hurt Him and fail Him, but He still so wanted a relationship with us that He made a way.  He knew that there would be many, many people that would reject His gift of love and salvation, but an eternity spent with those who would choose Him was worth the price of dying on the cross.  That is some amazing love!     
            And it’s an amazing love that I just didn’t trust for so long!  Like I said, I didn’t like to cry on other people’s shoulders or run to their arms when I needed comfort.  That felt very uncomfortable and foreign to me.  And I couldn’t even do this with God.  I didn’t live in the knowledge of His love enough to risk running to Him when I was hurting. 
            But by being a parent now, I’m beginning to understand how God must feel as a Father.  As my Heavenly Father, He wants to be - He actually really wants to be - the one I run to when I am hurt or in pain, just as I want my kids to do that with me.  He wants me to know the safety of His arms, just as I want my children to know the safety of mine.  He enjoys holding me and spending time with me, just as I enjoy my “cuddle time” with my kids.  And He wants me to enjoy it, too!

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