The Picture I Would Never Show My Mom…
We love to FaceTime with my mom.
Whether she likes the Blair Witch Project cinematography of our video chats or the loud, chaotic nonsense that comes from our end, I don’t know.
But the sweet lady FaceTimes with us regardless.
Most of the time, the camera points at odd angles, giving her good glimpses of our ceiling fans or tile floor.
Which is how the problem began.
“Is that upside down?” I thought I heard her ask. I couldn’t be 100% sure as most of the children were jabbering away, excited at the chance to get one iota of attention from the infamous Mawmaw. I took a swift glance around the room, looking for anything out of place.
Well, technically, lots of things were out of place. And scattered all over our kitchen counters.
But none of those things were upside down.
I counted off the children—1, 2, 3, 4—and found that they were all accounted for and, miraculously, all right side up.
Maybe I had misheard. Maybe nothing was upside down.
But then I looked at my son, who was standing by the kitchen sink, and stared with dread at what I knew to be crawling under her skin.
You see, I grew up having a special relationship with my mom. She was a close confidante. My biggest supporter and cheerleader. She was someone I could trust, and thus, she became the person with whom I revealed every detail of my life. Not to mention, she was someone who made me laugh until my sides ached. I look back now and realize that, when given the chance to be with friends or my mom, I often chose my mom because I loved her so much.
Because of all the time we spent together, I knew quite a bit about her, too.
Like the fact that she has always been someone who likes everything to be in its proper place. Anything out of place or even slightly askew thrusts a pointy thorn in her side.
Nothing could be scattered. Everything had to be picked up. Anything on the table had to be parallel at the edges.
Which must have driven her absolutely BONKERS when my brother and I were little, thoughtlessly throwing things all over the place. And then, when we grew up, it must have been even more infuriating. Being the punks we were, my brother and I would intentionally move things out of place and then watch our mother surge into action, righting our wrongs.
It became a running joke with all parties involved. My mom would even laugh and scrunch her face at us as she put things back in their correct position.
So the moment I looked down at my son, I knew. This was what drove her crazy…
(Mom, don’t look.)
Like my mother, I am a perfectionist by nature. And yet, like my father, I see the forest for the trees and rarely, if ever, capture small details. The mat could have been like this the entire two years we’ve lived in our house and I wouldn’t have known. But my mom—sweet, detail-oriented lady that she is—picked up on it through a screen while she sat in her own house hundreds of miles away.
It’s kind of impressive when you think about it.
“If you think that’s bad, you shouldn’t come visit,” I jokingly said to her through the phone. “That’s the least of our problems over here!”
But later that night, as I stood on the mat washing dishes, I looked at the upside down coffee mugs beneath my feet. My mother’s words echoed in my mind, along with the agitation in her voice.
And then, with my bare toes, I flipped the mat around. Not because it bothered me. Clearly it didn’t. I did it solely because I knew it would make my mom happy, and that’s all I wanted.
I glanced down at the cups that were now facing me and smiled.
I should show her this, I thought. So I dried my hands on a towel, reached for my phone and sent her a picture.
Her response, like her approach to life, was perfection.
In that moment, I realized that’s exactly how I must live as a Christian.
You see, since choosing to follow Jesus, I’ve grown a special relationship with my Father. He is a close confidante. My biggest supporter and cheerleader. He’s someone I can trust, and thus, has become the Person with whom I reveal every detail of my life. Not to mention, He’s got a pretty wicked sense of humor.
Because of all the time we spend together, I knew quite a bit about Him, too.
You see, our Father is someone who likes everything to be a certain way. He is perfect, and thus, is naturally a perfectionist. He is perfect love, goodness, joy. Perfect mercy and perfect justice. Perfect, perfect, perfect. And He wants that for us, too. Anything less than that (ahem, sin) surely thrusts a pointy thorn in His side.
Which must drive Him absolutely BONKERS when we thoughtlessly throw ourselves at worldly pursuits or other idols. And then, when we mature in our faith, it must be even more infuriating. Being the punks we are, we often know what’s wrong and choose it anyway.
And then, miraculously, we can watch our Father surge into action, righting our wrongs.
But it’s only in an intimate relationship with God—the knowing Him, not merely knowing about Him—that we can understand what pleases Him. Then, accordingly, we can flip our lives around. Not because what we were doing bothered us. Usually it doesn’t. We attempt to make a change solely because we know it will make Him happy, and that’s all we want.
I glance down at my children. The noise, the chaos. The stuff that would usually send Introverted Me running for the quiet hills. Instead, I pull my babies toward me. I let them tackle me to the ground and pile on top of me until I’m buried beneath small bodies and big, loud voices.
And I smile.
I should show Him this, I think. So I send up a silent prayer, thanking Him for the gift of my family and the grace to resist selfishness.
“Thanks,” He replies with a smile and a kiss. “I feel much better.”