I felt the soft grass under my feet. Their tips tickled my toes and I closed my eyes, heaving a sigh. It was a perfect spring day, but it wasn’t. I had invited one of Valentine’s friends over to swim, but the day was chilly and wet, and the best I could do was bundle them up and put them in the sandbox. The yard was vibrant green and newly mowed, but my leg throbbed from 9 stitches I got the day before when the mower shot a nail into my leg. All morning I’d been grumpy, and Valentine became increasingly frustrated, resorting to the worst tricks of toddlerhood. Screaming. Hitting. Throwing.
I closed my eyes and took a sip of coffee, but almost immediately heard a thud and realized that Valentine had thrown a toy, narrowly missing her friend’s head. Firmly, I told her to stop, made her apologize, went back to my coffee and started to read something on my phone.
Suddenly, Valentine was at my knee with a handful of sand. She looked me straight in the eye, then dumped it in my coffee.
It’s basically the meanest thing anyone’s ever done to me.
My eyes swelled with tears, but in another moment the comedy hit me and I burst out laughing. Laughing and crying, I grabbed her little wrists and pulled her close. Her eyes looked up at me, so serious, so determined, so defiant.
“Why’d you do that?” I asked.
“Because you keep saying no.”
Most of my experiences as a parent are pleasant, blessed, cherished. This moment was not. In Valentine’s frustrated brain, all she wanted to do was hurt me and make me sad, because I wasn’t letting her do what she wanted to do.
I’m not a perfect mother. There are many aspects of Valentine’s behavior that morning that were my fault. But I’m telling you now that when she contaminated my coffee, I felt the strangest thing. I felt love.
And there was something in that moment that’s made me think I have something wrong about God. When I am selfish, distant, prayerless, greedy, or discontent, I have this assumption that God sees me with a stern eye. In my rebellion, he seems hard as a judge’s gavel, as impersonal as stone.
But when Valentine hurt me, I realized that everything is very, very personal to God. It’s his earth we’re destroying, his children we’re starving, his bodies we’re gorging, his creatures we’re worshipping, his ideas we’re mocking, his daughters we’re raping, his bride we’re insulting, his sons we’re enlisting, his gifts we’re perverting, his blessings we’re rejecting, his son we’re killing.
And when we commit these acts of meanness, in our defiance we assume that God’s heart is then filled with the same meanness, harshness and frustration. But it’s not. This, instead, is what actually happens ::
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
now will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he know-how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
…Praise the LORD, O my soul.
(Photo by Logan)