Who Are You, Really?

My son has disappeared.

Not physically, thank heavens.

But my smiley, go-with-the-flow, happy-to-help toddler has been replaced by some body snatcher who constantly sulks, shoulders drooped, head down, shouting things like, “I don’t want to!” or some whiny form of “Stoooop!”

It’s exhausting.

Mass has become difficult. Nap time is impossible. Getting him to eat a meal? Forget about it. Heck, even playing together is now a challenge.

But we still grind through all those things because we know who he is—who he really is—and, by golly, we love him.

It wasn’t much of a surprise then, when his legs went limp in the parking lot as we walked into Mass. Then he planted his sneakers firmly on the sidewalk, refusing to move another step.

“Come on, bud,” I called.

He simply crossed his arms over his chest and huffed.

I steeled myself for battle, then scooped him off the ground and carried him inside.

“That’s not who you are,” I remind him, as I do several times a day. “You are good. You are kind. You are sweet.”

I go on and on, detailing the person I know he is.

You are loving. You are helpful. You are smart. You are silly. You like to make people laugh.

He relaxes in my arms and rests his head against my shoulder as I carry him inside. My heart melts. There’s my boy.

Maybe, just maybe, today won’t be such a struggle.

Together, as a family, we process down the aisle, get down on our knees to say hi to Jesus, then slide into the front pew.

Then I make a fatal mistake. I whisper my son’s name in his ear.

But the boy in my lap is not my son. At least, not at that moment.

“Don’t talk to me, Mom!” He pushes himself off my lap, scampers away, and then sits, hunched over, legs draped over the side of the pew. As far away from the rest of us as possible.

If he were my first child—heck, maybe even my second—I would have hunted him down and forced him into my lap like a normal child SO HELP ME.

But he’s the third. And his two older sisters both went through this, then turned out just fine. (I think.)

This, I’ve learned, is a developmental stage that his two-year-old brain simply cannot avoid.

And this, I’ve learned, is not who he is.

He’s not the gargoyle at the end of the pew.

He’s the boy who laughs so hard he snorts. The boy who dreams of becoming a basketball player and a priest. The boy whose face lights up when he runs to me first thing in the morning. And, when I scoop him into my arms, he’s boy who gently rubs my back and says, “Mommy, you’re a great Mommy.”

At some point, that boy will return. It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. It might be after his next birthday, when these twos stop being so terrible. But at some point, he will be himself again.

How do I know?

Because he’s mine.

I’ve been here with him since the moment he existed. Who else would know him better than I do?

I know who he really is, who he was created to be.

I glance his way a few times during Mass, but the boy doesn’t move a muscle.

So I leave him there. Alone. Sad. Separated from the rest of us.

He didn’t need a consequence from me. He was inflicting the most painful consequence on himself.

Finally, somewhere near the end, he looks my way. I open my arms, inviting him to come back, and he willingly runs to me and snuggles into my lap.

As the final hymn plays, he dances at my feet and shouts goodbye as the priest processes away. My heart swells with love for him.

There’s my boy. He’s back.

In that moment, I think of all the times I’ve been moody and self-absorbed. All the pity-parties I’ve thrown for myself. All the times I’ve held God at arms’ length or ignored Him all together.

And how that must really drive Him nuts. Because that, I’ve learned, is not who I am.

I’m the girl who dreams of writing and living in a way that shows everyone how invaluable they are. The girl whose face lights up when she gets to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and her Bible first thing in the morning. And, when she encounters God, she’s the girl who, with great awe, says, “Man, You’re a really great Father.”

And no matter what, that girl will always return.

How do I know?

Because I’m His.

He’s been with me since the moment I existed. Who else would know me better than He does?

He knows who I really am, who He created me to be.

And He whispers it into my ear if I listen closely enough.

You are good. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You do not have a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Patiently, He waits for me to turn to Him, to choose Him.

To be who I really am.

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