I have a box in my closet full of notes and homemade cards from my middle child, Nathan. Most of them say he loves me and some are filled with accolades and praise declaring me the best mom in the world. There are thank you notes for cakes I’ve made or gifts I’ve given and even apologies for misbehavior. The contents of that box are priceless to me.
The truth is, that many days, they are the only evidence or acknowledgement I have that Nathan truly loves me. Nathan is not demonstrative in his love. He never has been. He doesn’t give physical affection the way I wish he would. The only hugs I get are when I redeem a “hug coupon”, which he gives out rarely and sparingly on particularly good days. He refuses to allow me to comfort him and shies away from my embrace. Every night I tuck him in and say the words I’ve been uttering since the day I knew of his existence: “I love you Nathan”. And every night, there is silence. I’ve grown accustomed to not hearing a response, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t sting just a little.
In addition to his lack of affection, Nathan can be a difficult kid. He is moody and reactive. He is prone to anger and tears when things don’t go his way. He is as dependable as an oak tree, but his flexibility is nil. Bending his will is a near impossibility. And it is so trying for our entire family. When things don’t go according to plan, he tends to leak anger and lash out at those around him. He yells at his sister, quits games with his brother and snaps at my husband and me. And then there are consequences, followed by tears that he will not allow me to wipe away. It is heart wrenching to see him break and shatter over the smallest things.
Suffice it to say that there is not always a tremendous amount of visible or tangible reward in loving Nathan. There are days I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally, from trying to navigate the tumultuous waters that make up my son. My son. And there it is. He is mine and that is enough. Despite his moods and his challenges, he is my child and that is sufficient to produce overwhelming love for him. I look at him sometimes and I am overcome with affection and marvel, just because God has seen fit to entrust him to me. And while most days he is a magnificent and impossible puzzle, he is my puzzle and I am grateful for every piece of him.
One of the most profound benefits of Nathan being mine is that I see pieces in him that go largely unnoticed by others. The first and foremost of these is his heart. As evidenced by the notes I keep, Nathan’s heart is both immeasurable and unfathomable. Tonight, that heart was displayed magnificently.
Today was Election Day and I did not vote. Due to an unfortunate combination of some previous obligations, a significant miscommunication and confusing misinformation, my vote went uncast and I was greatly discouraged by it. But in the wake of my frustration and disappointment, Nathan gave me a far better gift. Seeing my sadness, he constructed a small voting booth in his bedroom and invited me to cast my vote. I was moved to tears by his compassion. And I was reminded of Matthew 5:7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
As usual, I did a little digging and while the verse is fairly straightforward, the Greek word used for merciful resounded loudly. The actual word is eleemon, which is derived from the root word eleeo. The word means “to compassionate by word or deed, specifically by divine grace.” This is precisely what my son did tonight. He showed compassion through word and deed. He saw my heart and rose to the occasion. He put love into action.
My husband and I like to say that Nathan is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. There are days that he drives me to the highest heights of frustration. Then there are moments like tonight. Moments that he rushes over me with the deepest complexities of love and compassion. And I am so glad that he is mine.
I am confident that my love for Nathan, despite some of his less than desirable qualities, is just a sloppy shadow of what my God feels about me. Like Nathan, I am often unlovable. I can be difficult and ungrateful, stubborn and unbending. But also like Nathan, I am loved, not because of what I can offer, but simply because I am His.
I love the way God loves me. I love that I am His. I love that because I am His, He looks past all my inadequacies and sees what is best about me. He extends grace and finds me lovable.