After a time away from blogging (I could claim I was busy, but actually I discovered mother and baby cinema in Greenwich) I am returning to you with a thoughtful post. It’s a faith based post so if you’d rather not read about Christianity then look away now.
In the Bible, God describes himself as our Father. Its one of the names we have for him, and Jesus referred to God the Father as “Abba” which roughly translates as “Dad”. Since having children I’ve been fascinated by the way the parent – child relationship reflects so much of the God – human relationship, and how this description of God as father really works.
Some things are obvious – that God is in charge and we are not, God chose to create us, He loves us, and looks after us. Some things are less obvious. This post is about the things my children have taught me about God. I’m a mother rather than a father of course, but I think a lot of truth still holds.
Mummy loves you very much
I love my children so much. A lot more than I might have imagined before I had them. Its a visceral, instinctual sort of love, as well as being an enjoyment of them as people and joy at watching them learn and grow. There is no doubting it, even when I am sick, angry or miles away.
When Nathan was lying in hospital, brain damaged and with a poor outcome expected, I still loved him. I didn’t mind if he could ever walk, or go to school, or become an independent adult. I just wanted him to be him, and to make the most of whatever he could do.
Now he is a healthy toddler, and much of that worry has passed to be replaced with different ones, but the love is still the same. When he gets things wrong, runs too fast and falls over, or has a tantrum and throws things on the floor, I don’t love him any less. It can make me a little disappointed, but my first reaction is to think the best of him, to make excuses and understand his point of view, to defend him against anyone who judges him. Sometimes it actually makes me laugh, but I do my best to keep my mummy face on and respond in a way that will help him to learn, become emotionally continent, happy and content.
Thinking of how much I love my children and delight in them regardless of how they act, has opened my eyes to just how much God loves each one of us. And just like I would rush to defend my children from anyone else who judges them, God defends us. He is our judge, but we shouldn’t fear his judgement when it is tempered by mercy and love.
Ouch, you hurt mummy
With 2 small children I am often a human climbing frame. I have my hair pulled. I have my feet stood on (regularly). I have my wrist wrenched in an effort to escape my grasp, and I get hit in the face more often than anyone ought to put up with. Corners of hardbacked books are not my friends. Small plastic toys leap under my bare feet.
Small children are not careful by nature, and they struggle to understand that they have the power to hurt people, albeit mostly by accident. Nathan doesn’t realise that he can cause me a lot of pain by being careless, or in a fit of pique. Often I find myself explaining that “mummy has an ouch, please say sorry”.
It got me wondering about how we hurt God – by ignoring Him or by deliberately throwing His gifts back in His face, by sinning and by avoiding apologising. I still don’t get it right all the time, but I’m more aware of when “God has an ouch” that I need to apologise for.
I’m sorry it hurts but its for your own good
Recently Samuel had his 4 month injections. I held him still and allowed the nurse to stick him with a needle 3 times. He screamed and screamed. Later, he got a fever and was pretty upset for the whole day. It upsets me to deliberately do this to him, but it is far far better for him than getting the diseases he has been immunised against. As a young baby, Nathan had procedure after procedure which hurt him but ultimately saved his life. Never once did I agree to slice open his foot just for fun. Many times we did it to test his blood so that the doctors could ensure his breathing support was correct. It probably didn’t feel that way to Nathan though.
There are other, more everyday things where I encourage or even force my children to do things they really dislike. Nathan went through a phase where he hated having his car seat straps done up. He would live on a diet of chocolate sandwiches and yoghurt if I let him. Samuel recently tried to wean himself on paper until I discovered him and removed his snack, much to his annoyance.
You see, as the adult I have more information than them. Information they can’t even understand yet, can’t hope to grasp until they’re much older. And I have the responsibility to take decisions in their best interest. This is also the case with God and us. He is omnipotent, and loves us. When He lets us suffer it we tend to assume he’s forgotten us, or is being mean. Maybe there are reasons we can’t hope to understand until we’re much more mature.
When Samuel was screaming after his injections, and when Nathan was having heel prick blood tests, I did not abandon them. I understood they were upset. I knew they might feel betrayed, hurt, and in pain. I held them and comforted them and dried their eyes, and one day I will explain it all to them, if they want to know. Luckily they are both young and trusting enough to accept my comfort despite the appearance of my betrayal. Doing this for my children has reminded me to accept the comfort of God even when it seems He’s allowing me to suffer needlessly. One day I hope to understand, but in the mean time I’ll have a cuddle, some milk, a chocolate button or two and be as brave as I can, because if we don’t trust God to have our best interests at heart then what kind of “good” could God ever be?
I’d suffer your pain for you if I could
I remember praying when Nathan was sick in hospital, the sort of desparate bargaining prayer that starts with an “if you…” and ends with a promise. If you let him live then I’ll never doubt you. If you take away his suffering I’d happily get a nasty disease instead of him. Its a bit related to the last point, but as a parent you hate to see your child suffer any sort of distress – physical or emotional. If you could stand up to the school bullies in place of your child, if you could have the operation instead of them, if you could jump out infront of the car and push them out of the way then you would.
God feels the same way. I can say this with utter confidence, because He did it. He came to live here, to find out exactly what it was like, to win the battle of living a good life whilst facing all the difficulties and problems we have. Then He took the consequences of our bad choices, our sins, for us. He got in our place and did it for us.
It would be ridiculous if my children said to me “mummy, I know you pushed me out of the way of that car and broke your legs and everything, but really i’d rather have worked it out on my own and I’ll be jumping infront of the next car that drives past because its important to be self reliant, thank you anyway”. My children remind me to say yes, thank you Jesus that you already did it all, and that I don’t have to deal with the bad consequences of my sin. Thank you for loving me enough to do that for me.
Mummy’s just in the next room, stop whinging
Lightening the tone a bit as it got a bit deep there. Small children often go through attachment phases where they cannot stand for you to be out of their sight. Once they get mobile they will follow you everywhere – even into the toilet. Smaller children will cry and cry if they think they’re alone. They struggle to understand that you haven’t abandoned them, that you’re coming back soon, and that you’ve made arrangements for their safety and comfort in the mean time such as using a baby monitor, leaving the TV on as background noise, or asking a friend to babysit.
In an earlier post I mentioned how Nathan asks “mummy coming back soon?” when we put him to bed. It’s a common phrase in our house. Another one is “mummy’s just in the next room, i’m really near you, there’s no need to cry”.
After Jesus had risen from the dead, he returned to heaven. He said we shouldn’t whinge about this, that it was necessary He go so that He could send us the Spirit to be with us, and that He was coming back soon. Sometimes it feels like a long time that He’s been gone, and we wonder if he’ll come back at all. These days imagine God saying “stop whinging, I’m very close by, just in the next room, and I’m coming back soon”. He’s left the Holy Spirit to look after me, and I don’t need to stress about it.
You can’t imagine all the great things ahead of you
I love dreaming about my children’s futures. Yes, it will be wonderful to get to know their characters better as they grow up, to find out their strengths and weaknesses, and to watch them become young men then adults, moving out into the world and their own lives.
But the dreaming I really enjoy is planning how I will introduce them to things I know about that they don’t yet know are coming. Nathan’s first trip to Legoland was last month, and he was amazed by the trains and the pirate show and the maze. I can’t wait until he’s big enough for roller coasters – Alton Towers and Chessington and even perhaps Florida. I think about horse riding, about snowboarding, about riding bikes and rowing boats and trips on aeroplanes. I think about their first best friend, about falling in love, about moving out for the first time, about discovering bands and clubbing and theatre and films and all the things there are to enjoy in the world. They might not like all of it, and almost certainly they won’t like exactly the same things as I do. But I can’t wait to see them enjoy it all.
That sense of anticipation, that the best is yet to come, that the future is limitless and enjoyable and wide open to them, that is how I believe God feels about us. We are just at the start of our eternity with Him. He’s preparing a room for each of us in His house, He’s getting ready to show us how life should have been, how it can be.
As I scheme about how to bless my children, how to introduce them to the wonderful things life has to offer, I also try to remember that God is doing the same for me. And that, too, is one of the wonderful things in life I hope to introduce my children too, so that after enjoying this life together we can also enjoy God’s house together, for the rest of eternity. What amazing experiences lie ahead of us? I can’t wait to see!