On a recent afternoon, I found myself circling the brick pathway around my house looking for snails. It had rained earlier in the day, and apparently snails like that. (This was news to me.) When I took my daughter outside to play after being cooped up in the house for most of the day, I anticipated bike riding and swinging and maybe blowing bubbles. Snails were nowhere on my radar.
As soon as we got outside, though, she spotted dozens of them scattered along the patio, porch, and driveway. They were immediately her friends, earning names like “little dude” and “funny guy,” and we were on a mission to collect as many as we could.
I feel I should tell you that I don’t like bugs. Creepy crawly things are not my favorite. My sister had a “bug bottle” when we were little, and she loved to fill it up. I, though, loved to stay as far away from the thing as I could. Gross.
As I mentioned before, though, I found myself that afternoon kneeling in the sun, baking from the heat of the bricks, gathering and inspecting snails.
At one point, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so weird. This is not like me at all. Wait a minute…why AM I doing this? This is GROSS!”
And then I looked up and saw my daughter.
I saw her smile. I saw her having fun. I saw her engaged in something, learning, exploring her world. I saw her light up in a new way. In that moment, I realized why I was spending my afternoon doing that…because the familiar still, small voice reminded me of the meaning of love.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
And then I got it in a new way.
See, I don’t in any way consider my love for my daughter to be perfect love. I mess up a lot. No, really – I mess up a lot. I yell when I should speak tenderly, and I am far too concerned with my own agenda far too often. Sometimes, though, I think I do a good job of entering her world – of adopting her agenda for my day. It is at those times that I feel like a good mama.
“This is what I SHOULD be doing right now. This is what she will remember. This is what will shape who she becomes – quality time with her mama.” I pat myself on the back and keep playing with her Mickey Mouse figures or covering paper with finger paint goop or, yes, searching for snails.
Why? Because I love her, and entering her world – by voluntarily leaving mine behind – shows her the depth of my love for her. I think she understands love when I do that.
My daughter is not so different from any other warm-blooded human being. She longs for someone to care. She needs someone to see her world as important. And y’all, I am so thankful that she and I and none of us have to rely on another human being to fill that need within us. Why? Because the One who placed that need within us is uniquely suited to meet it.
Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)
And again, I know that my mothering does not completely measure up to this standard. I’d be foolish (and really, really dishonest) to claim that. And again, I’m thankful that when my little girl’s heart needs validation, she need not look solely to her flawed, selfish, human mama. I don’t have to look to anyone, either, when that same need surfaces in my own heart.
None of us has to look anywhere but to the Lord to find out that we are important. We matter. We really, really matter, because the God of the universe – the One who at every moment is consumed with maintaining the orbit of the planets…the heartbeat of every man…the burning of the sun…the flight of every bird…is intimately concerned with US. Each of us, even when we feel invisible and insignificant, is important to the only One who can really determine such things.
God sees us. He cares. He enters our world to become concerned with the things we are concerned with. He shows us in a million ways that love is not proud or selfish, but is humble and open-minded. Every time He gives us peace over a worry about work, or breathes joy into unimaginable difficulties with family, or gives us even one more breath, He shows He cares. He sees us and He cares. How do I know? He takes the time to step out of His world and into mine. It’s just that simple.
Journeying with you,