I Really Love You
Time for bed.
I didn’t know this before I became a parent, but those three words are full of magic. Or maybe caffeine. I’m not totally sure.
Whatever the case, every night when I say those words, they seem to bewitch my children. No sooner than I finish the phrase, one child is swinging upside down over her bunkbed stairs, another is running naked down the hall, and yet another is stricken with an unquenchable thirst for water and the answers to all life’s deepest questions.
It takes the strength of God Himself to round everyone up in one spot and force them to take care of the non-negotiables. Pajamas. Clean teeth. Potty.
It’s simple, but not easy.
So it was nothing short of a miracle when all three of my children stood at the sink in pajamas, toothbrushes in hand, scrubbing away in peace.
We had finally done it. A successful bedtime routine.
Then I peeked into my daughters’ bedroom and ground my teeth. The beds were unmade. And the clean sheets were downstairs.
I bit my lip. If I went to get the sheets, would all hell break loose in this bathroom?
I decided to be quick and take my chances.
“You guys stay right here and keep brushing, okay?” I said.
Two kids gargled a muffled ‘okay’. The youngest one nodded.
I dashed out of the room leaving them all with their toothbrushes dangling out of their mouths. Down the steps I went, surprisingly pleased with how well everything was going. No one had made a fuss, not even a peep. I rifled through the hamper of clean linens, lost in thought.
Wow, they’re doing much better than I thought they would. Pillow case.
Maybe they’re big enough to take care of themselves now. Fitted sheet.
Ha! This must be what the next level of parenthood feels like! Blanket.
With a huge smile, I scooped everything into my arms and headed back toward the stairs.
This is amazing! It’s so nice to have them help out so I don’t have to do everything all by my—
I stopped in my tracks, finally realizing why everything had gone so quiet.
There, on the steps, my two-year-old stood, toothbrush in mouth, dripping spit. The path he had taken was obvious. Pink, bubblegum-flavored goo shimmered in the carpet every step of the way.
“Buddy,” I whined, “I told you to stay at the sink.”
“But I really love you.” The words sloshed out along with more toothpaste. By this point, the boy’s whole mouth was full of liquid.
Surely, the boy felt awkward standing at the sink, his small hands not yet having mastered the art of brushing his teeth. No doubt standing there was full of discomfort, worry, and loneliness. All he knew was that he was on his own, expected to do something that left him feeling utterly incompetent. And, like any normal person, he wanted to escape that.
But still, the command remained.
I sighed. “If you really loved me, you would’ve done what I asked you to do.”
I understand the internal struggle he must’ve had, though, because I’ve felt that way quite a lot lately. Stuck at home. Locked down. Separated. Every household for itself.
All the while, the world outside implodes with animosity and disease.
I feel like I should go somewhere. Do something.
But I don’t know how to cure a virus or end a global lockdown. I have no clue how to stop hatred and replace it with love and respect. And I certainly don’t know how to rebuild our economy, fix our broken political system, or transform the futile conversations that are taking place as the presidential election nears.
Only God knows how to do those things. And yet, He isn’t miraculously poofing them away.
Instead, He asks us to take care of the non-negotiables. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked and shelter the homeless. Visit the sick and the imprisoned. Bury the dead.
In short, take care of and respect all human life.
It’s simple, but not easy.
“You stay here and keep loving, okay?” He says.
I nod, and then look at the four kids dangling from my body, their sweet faces watching everything I do. Me. I’m their example of how to love and respect others. Often times, I feel clumsy and inadequate, unsure if I’m doing enough. Teaching enough. Loving enough.
And I definitely feel amateurish sitting in my house, at this desk, not yet having mastered the art of proclaiming the Kingdom—especially not from a computer. All I know for sure is that it’s uncomfortable and lonely. And I’m here, attempting to mother littles and write lots, both of which leave me feeling utterly inadequate.
What God’s plan is exactly, I have no idea. But whatever it is, I trust that it’s for our good. Because that’s what He does. He makes all things work out for the good of those who love Him.
And His command remains.
Stay in this discomfort, this grief, this worry, this incompetency. Really feel it. Let it ruminate. Let it break your heart. Then let it compel you to love harder than ever before.
Every inch of me longs to tramp down the steps, forging my own path with my messiness trailing behind me.
But I don’t.
Instead, I’ll stay right here, deep in the muck of social tension and global pandemic, determined to share His love from where I am. Determined to teach my kids that every human life has infinite value. To show each person I meet, regardless of how they look, the very same thing. Determined to encourage and unite people with the words I write.
Determined to stay.
“I really love You,” I reply. “So I’ll stay and do what You ask me to do.”