Every now and then I will be holding or sitting or wrestling or tickling or laughing with my daughter and she will do something (like throw a book into my forehead) and I will shout out a quick "Ouch!" before I can stop myself. I know she didn't mean it. Whether a scratching or foot to the throat or eye gouge, I try to keep my reaction guarded so that she doesn't feel overly bad about our playing that got out of hand (usually my fault anyway). It's in these moments that I have started to see something quite beautiful from my daughter. The expression of love through soft spoken concern.
For instance, the other day, on one such instance, I was holding my daughter and she accidentally slammed her forehead into my nose. I let out a yelp and tears started forming in my eyes just from the sharp pain that shot through my face. Her face quickly became soft with her eyebrows arched with worry and apology. She drew her eyes in line with mine and her hand began to stroke my cheek as she said "Are you ok, Mommy? I'm sorry. Do you need a Tootsie Roll to feel you better?"
I don't know what it was but when her tiny fingers lay on my cheek I just sat there in awe. How did she learn that this was what you do when someone might be needing comfort? How did she know that it would make me feel better? How did she know to drop everything else, make eye contact and express her concern with such a soft, heartfelt tone?
I suppose that, while much of her expression of love is a deep rooted seed that each of us has planted down inside from birth, my daughter was showing the physical aspects of this love that she has seen from watching us, her parents, love on her. She has been spying on us and taking notes with the ability of Jason Bourne and has learned what actions express the inner feeling of love.
It was with great joy that I sat there with a throbbing nose and watched my daughter love me. If she has learned to love me then she knows how to love others and if she knows how to love others then what a great world she will live in.
Once again I was drawn to thoughts of my Heavenly Father and the example of love He has given me. Do I respond by showing that I have learned how to love like Him? Perhaps I do sometimes but I know I frequently land on the side of selfishness, withdrawing my hand from the face of someone in need and tending to my own world. I hold back the words of love because my mouth is filled, instead, with stories of my own life and my own need for love. I avert my gaze because I know that if I make eye contact then I will have to give and then perhaps I would become empty and have nothing left for myself.
When I think I could have nothing left is when I have forgotten who is responsible for me, Jesus.
In John 15:9-12, Jesus says,
"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you"
I have seen the truth of these verses. The moments when I have had the greatest joy, in my life, have been moments when I am in His love and I was in His love as a result of loving others. The moments when I have had my greatest sadness have been the moments I am most unloving, whether due to self pity, pride, anger, bitterness, or any other manner of selfishness. I don't want to live a life filled with those moments.
I saw, dimly, what it might be like for the Father to watch us "get it." When my daughter unhesitatingly showed love, my heart felt as though it might burst and my response was to gather her up in my embrace, burying my face in her little neck, with words of love towards her gushing from my lips.
He loves when we love.
We are loved when we love
and we will never be empty but filled, instead, with His joy, and these are the moments I want to live in.