It started Sunday, with the tantrums. They were not hers, but mine, and they were fueled by a variety of external factors, excuses – too much noise, not enough rest, too much sugar, not enough time – and I had become itchy with discontent. I was on edge, a jagged, barbed wire version of myself that fenced out the good: gentleness, patience, kindness, love.
When I’m feeling particularly edgy, I forget a lot of things. I forget that I’m the grown-up. I forget that I am her leader, that I set the tone. That my barbed wire of self-preservation does nothing to further our bond but instead, encourages everyone else to – quickly, quietly please – build their own fence to protect each other from the elements of our truest selves. I forget that love – the kind of love I’m seeking – comes without conditions. I forget that shaming a child is no form of discipline. I forget that yelling is the easy way out, and I forget that she is a sponge.
Life is linear, they have shouted. It has momentum, and one day builds from another – one choice from the one before. And so, I wonder, what does it mean when you have a string of bad days? How do you stop the momentum that has been building from crashing, burning, destroying? How long does a strand of bad decisions stretch before it strangles the good, before it wraps around your finger like floss, around your neck like a noose?
We cannot know.
But part of me believes that life may not be linear, after all. Perhaps these bad days are not strings tied together, but are stars – scattered under a canopy of forever? Some beautiful, some terrible, some far brighter than we’d imagined? And by peering at them from afar, from underneath, we see them as they are?
I choose, daily, to believe in a God that is not constrained by time, or space, or boundaries. Life, as I believe that He sees it, is not linear. And so, perhaps I’m looking at all of this from the wrong perspective.
What if a mother’s yell is merely an opportunity to voice forgiveness? What if a child’s disobedience is an opportunity to practice a mother’s self-control? And if that’s true, what if a mother’s guilt is simply an opportunity to accept – to show gratitude for and to cling to – a greater love?
Because here is what I do know: when love is offered unconditionally, everything changes. I know this because I believe in a God who is the very essence of unconditional love, and it surprises me more each day I am a mother. Is it irrational, and unthinkable, and holds little understanding. I am a toddler, a sponge, and certainly there are conditions that come alongside this God’s love? Certainly I will lose just a tiny portion if I, say, disobey and run out into the street? Or color on the walls? Or eat the dog food?
And yet, I am loved. I see it, in small flickers, a star on the darkest night of forever. I feel it, and I accept it, and I carry it until tomorrow.
And so, because of this, I love. She sees it, in small flickers, a star on the darkest night of forever. She feels it, and I can only hope she will accept it, and I can only pray that she will carry it until tomorrow.