Like most mothers, I adore my children. Like most mothers, I have this sense that I sort of “woke up” when they came into the world – as if I were only half living before. Like most mothers I catch myself in awe of their beauty and creativity and strength. And like most mothers, I get overwhelmed, infuriated, worn out, and exhausted doing this thing.
My children do not obey me “first time, every time,” they don’t follow all my sound advice, they don’t thank me for everything I do. Most days include sensory-overload and I reach a point where I’d love nothing more than for them to leave me alone for a bit. There are times when I would be totally happy to let them sit in front of brain-sucking screens for an hour (or three) while I enjoy not listening to the noise that is my beloveds. Times when I would love to hear a “you’re right, Mom, I should not hit my brother, here’s a coffee, I’m going to go lead a calm game outside with the siblings I cherish.”
I get irritated plenty, but sometimes I get angry at them. So angry. Particularly when they hurt one another (extra particularly when it’s the youngest one being hurt), I feel downright wrathful. I get so mad I scream at them or tell them to leave the area or rip the toy from their hands. In those moments their sweet little faces incite fury as I am faced with their ability to cause harm to the innocent – to my babies. Motherhood has brought out the wrath in me.
So yeah, sometimes I just want a break. I want them to stop whatever they are doing. I want to hole up and watch Scandal and eat my dinner in peace. Sometimes I want more than that; I want justice. I want them to understand that their actions have consequences, I want them to feel bad for what they’ve done so they won’t do it again.
But do you know what I’ve never wanted, even in my most wrathful moments? I have never wanted my children to believe they sucked. Even when they kind of suck. Even when they push the little one for no reason or ask me one million times to change my mind or used a highlighter on the couch I just cleaned. Even when I am enraged at their behavior, even when I’m irritated or exhausted or having to repeat a lesson for the umpteenth time – I do not for even the slightest breath of a second want them to believe they are awful or that I can’t stand them. Because for all their noise/tenacity/bullying I love these people and I see the immense good in them.
I grew up in a tradition which did it’s best to teach me that I was not in control of everything that happened in life – a beautiful, necessary lesson. However, in its attempt to minimize the amount of human fallibility allowed to screw up God’s plan, it sort of accidentally taught that all human contribution is worthless (a foil to God’s worthiness). The subtle lesson was that we are all inherently wicked and dirty and gross and evil.
Okay, sometimes not so subtle. I sat through countless sermons telling me I was essentially a worm. Those words used verbatim (because in the Bible people call themselves worms a lot in their God-groveling).
And I get it, sort of. Humans have always had a hard time relating to the divine. We intuit that there is more to life than what we can see and we yearn to make sense of the chaos – the hurricanes and dead children and diseases. So we create constructs. We design deities to blame and appease, ladders to climb to paradise. We need something to hang onto, something to make us feel less alone in the universe, to give our existence meaning.
When it comes to the Christian God, this construct becomes inherently personal. Just as humans throughout time have placed their insecurities on their gods, we make our internal shame and fear God’s problem: Hurricanes wiped out villages because the gods were angry with them; I feel like a rotten piece of dirt because God is angry with me.
It makes all kinds of sense until you try to reckon with Jesus who says that if we want to know what God is like, we need to look at him. So we look at him. And we don’t get “you’re a worm,” we get, “you’re good, go make the world better.”
In fact, the only people Jesus has an issue with are the people trying to convince other people of their worminess.
When we look at Jesus we see a condemnation of the blocks between God and humanity, we see the dirty folks invited to the table, we see audacious forgiveness doled out like candy at a parade. We see all kinds of off-the-hook-letting and don’t-worry-about-its. And apparently in all this, we are meant to see the heart of God – whose preferred name is one of a parent.
If God is a parent there is no way I am a better one. There is no way I have more compassion for my kids or more affection for them. There is no way my anger is more fleeting or my forgiveness more swift.
If God is a parent we are not worms, we are children of the divine. We are flesh and blood extensions of the compassion, wisdom, kindness, grace that Jesus embodied.
And if God is a parent we are loved beyond our comprehension – you get that, right? That your parents probably loved you more than you could have possibly understood as a kid and that if they didn’t that is one of the most tragic and ugly distortions in all of humankind? There is nothing more unnatural than a parent not loving her child. If God is a parent, we are okay.
Love covers everything – whines and hits and bitchy teenage outbursts – to deliver the recipient the best version of themselves. A version already there and seen by Love. It doesn’t back down from this conviction. Love insists we can be better, stands by the falls to help with the dust brushing so we can get back to it.
Like most mothers I love my children, and like most mothers, God loves hers.