Piper is two and a half now. Almost three.
If you have had children, you know what this means. If you have had an independent, spunky, first-born child, you know what this means.
She has a mind of her own - and it runs contrary to everything in my mind. There is a certain measure of predictability in her reactions: she throws a fit over everything. Even the love I try to offer.
The rejection of my love - even from a two-year-old - hits me deep. Really, really deep. Every time Piper pitches a fit at me, I shut down a little more. I grow harder. I push her away.
I respond out of fear and anger. So much anger. I want to train her like a dog sometimes, pick her up, rub her nose in what she has done, over and over, because that is the way it washes over me, the things that can't be fixed.
I don't want to give her grace. And mercy? She still needs consequences.
Because God is a God of judgment. And by the law came the knowledge of sin. And all the sorries in the world don't make things better.
And I HATE THAT I THINK THAT.
But I think it about me too.
Once someone loved me, and then he didn't.
I spent years looking for grace, looking for someone to tell me how wrong he was, looking for the reasons. Time heals, they say; I would argue. God heals - in His time. Time just helps you forget, dulls the pain, cloaks your reactions.
It doesn't reopen your heart.
I have not trusted love since. I have barely given love since.
The lessons I teach my daughter about love come too often from this place.
Piper is just like I am, and how I treat her is a reflection of how I view myself.
I cried the other day watching a Cold Case episode during the kids' naptime. The story was about a girl who had been murdered - stoned to death.
She had been a slut, sleeping around, trying to figure out where she fit in the world with a mom who did the same thing. She got involved with a "purity" group at school. They told her that she could take a vow, "re-virginize" herself so that she could be pure before God.
In her last group meeting, the group leader asked everyone to share something about themselves of which they were ashamed. The sins listed were minor and surface, and the girl - Kari - begged them to be real about something. Finally, the group leader told them to write something down that they couldn't tell anyone but God.
After everyone left, Kari went to the bowl that held the slips of paper, picked one up and read, "Kari is going to die." She ran from the room and was later stoned by four members of the purity group. Because she made them feel dirty.
I wanted to roll my eyes a little until the last scene, when the cop handed her mom the slip of paper on which Kari had written her own something down: "I believe God loves me for who I am."
I feel so dirty sometimes. My own shame immobilizes me. Shame over missed opportunities. Shame that I have let someone down. Shame that I have failed, that I have not believed God again.
Something happened recently that triggered this tailspin. Something that left me feeling as though I had to prove myself by... well, you can fill in the blank. Being a good photographer. Being a terrific blogger. Disciplining my children properly. Keeping up with everything and everyone.
I fell hard from grace, and while I know the truth of it, I have not reached for it since.
God loves me for who I am. But here's the thing: who I am is in Jesus. Outside of Him, I can prove nothing to myself, to my family, to God.
If I don't trust His love, I can't love, for my own love grows from how I am loved.
This is what I know is true.
I ran across an incredible quote the other day, from a 2004 movie called Shall We Dance (via Skye Jekthani, "Why I Don't Tweet").
We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”
This is what it means that God came in flesh to dwell with us, what it means that He has made us His bride.
This is why I run around the interwebs, trying to be noticed, trying to be seen. Does anybody see, I wonder? But I know. I know Who sees. I know Who loves me. I'm not going to find fulfillment outside of that Love.
But to be filled by it, my heart must be open.
Sometimes lately, I look at Piper and tell her, "I see you."
She doesn't mind. In fact, she's started saying it back.
It was late, and getting later. The book I was reading was supposed to be light fare, an easy read, a chick flick equivalent that wouldn't make me think too much.
But God will use anything to get my attention.
The heroine responded (illogically and stupidly - I have my issues with the writing) out of fear, cutting off the relationship because she was certain that the hero was going to leave her.
It undid me. A memory flashed from an encounter with my old love - how much trust was missing - how much trust was still missing here... And so, so much pain washed over me, pain I thought was gone, pain I didn't know was dictating my inaction.
I have known that He wants me to love. He has been asking me to hold on to Pete, to Piper, to Bredon. Strange how holding on has become loss for me. The loss of my safety. The loss of my control.
I have been so afraid of losing that. Because if I let that go, if I hold on to the dearest to my heart, I risk more pain than I have already known, because God lets life happen. Because the choice we made in Eden was not safe.
Because He is enough.
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)