It was another hard day of no leggings, yes pants. Homework first, FaceTime second. No eyeliner, yes blush. Talking, hugging, slamming doors…
Being a middle school girl -even a fun, beautiful, smart one- is rough.
And being her mom is exhausting.
It was the dark time of night when confidence turns into confusion and anger becomes fear. Even though I was in bed, I knew sleep probably wouldn’t come, but definitely not if I didn’t do one more thing…
I tiptoed into her room and kicked through clothes, shoes, and books to get to her bed. I had asked her to clean it earlier. She didn’t. It seems to be the name of our game lately, and I had just as many fouls as she.
She was curled up facing the wall – an illustration of the season.
I put my hand on her hip and whispered:
“Hey, you asleep?”
“Yes.” I heard her breathe a quick laugh-breath out of her nose. It lifted my spirit and fanned a spark of courage.
“I love you.”
Usually, she replies with a short “Love you, too”, and I’ll take it. However, this time, after this warring day, she didn’t complete our standard exchange. My words hung in the air and amplified the silence. I wanted to cover my ears… and my heart.
You’ve lost her. Panic rolled in while I watched the rise and fall of her ribcage.
Finally, she turned to face me and offered a hand-squeeze, a slight smile, and two slow, sleepy words:
She closed her eyes and pulled covers tight – signaling the end of the conversation. The end of today’s battle. The end of what she had to give.
Stunned and a bit rattled, I kissed her bangs and walked back to my room.
I sat on the edge of my bed, thinking about her response. Though it wasn’t what I expected, it shook something loose from deep in me.
She knows. Two words. Enough to start an avalanche.
My throat contracted, signaling a coming birth of emotions. I hunched over, laboring under the weighty fact that she’s received the message that I’ve been giving in many languages since her conception.
She knows. Even on this day, even in this season.
The realization left me undone and weeping, bearing down on something new. Her response was raw and laced with purity, and it was enough to wreck me with joy.
I should have figured that in God’s economy, two syllables would weigh more than three.
My daughter is able to recognize love – even my imperfect version – in all the discipline and boundaries.
She knows my love isn’t doused by her failures or messes.
She knows my love, though limited, is bigger than her rebellious heart.
Her knowing is solid ground for both of us. It’s a place from where I can build and where she can find rest.
I thought I needed my daughter to echo back my words, but only empty places echo back. Filled ones pour out; offering an honest and unique expression of what’s inside.
Why do I think I’m like God, able to create something from nothing? Why do I think I can conjure up a desirable offering from emptiness and hollow words?
Why do I think God’s like me: standing at my back, wringing His hands and pining for my words of affection?
He needs nothing. I need a heart, desires, love, words…all things new. All.
I love you, child. Be still and know. I’ll supply the rest.
My daughter’s response proves that she’s not empty. There is something there absorbing the sound. A full, expression of love will come eventually, and I’m inspired by how she has the integrity and patience to wait for it. It’s amazing that she learned that on her own.
Or did she? Thank you, Father, for taking my ruins and making beautiful things.
My girl fell asleep that night the way every child should at the end of a broken day: touched by grace and sure of a love that’s willing to kick through the mess to reach her.
And I rested in bed like every mother should in the night of a rough season: blanketed with quiet joy and hopeful in God’s work alone.
I looked out the window and pondered how the same God who fills the moon at night fills my daughter and me. Thank you Lord.
I knew sleep would come easy, but later.
I wanted to spend some time just knowing.
Because the knowing alone makes the night -and middle school- a little less dark.
Be still and know. Your response can wait ’til morning.