A couple weeks before Christmas, we were getting ready to host a long-anticipated cocktail party at our house. My husband and I were a great team trying to get Christmas lights up, clean the house, and prep food for the occasion. Unfortunately, our toddler’s molars decided to make a ferocious push for the surface and we had to juggle a miserable little girl on top of all of the chores. We felt helpless. We kept giving her homeopathy and snuggles whenever we could, but sometimes she was completely inconsolable. Our usually cheerful munchkin was as fragile as could be and even though I was anticipating a festive event that evening, I could feel myself fraying at the edges. She skipped her nap entirely—something she hadn’t done for months, so she was completely exhausted on top of the pain and there was nothing we could do about it except desperately try to make it to bedtime.
A little before dinner, she really fell apart. We had already tried all sorts of distractions and remedies throughout the day and were running out of ideas. I decided that she had been cooped up in the house for a while, so I was going to bundle her up and take her for a walk outside to look at Christmas lights. The battle that ensued was utterly unprecedented. It took both my husband and I to wrestle her into warm clothes as she kicked and screamed. My patience and heart were breaking.
We finally got her dressed and outside. She kept on crying. I was determined to at least give the walk a try, even if she wouldn’t let me put her down and struggled the whole way. Once around the block, I told myself. We can manage that. At least we will have tried it.
There were precious brief pauses in the tears, but she wailed almost the entire time we were outside. It was probably barely more than five minutes, but in that short time, I lost it. I held my precious little girl and cried right along with her. Thankfully no one else was out at the time, so we could just weep and walk without embarrassment. Through the tears, I finally said aloud the things I had been thinking and holding onto all day. I wish you could calm down long enough to see that there are still happy things in the world even if you’re sore. I wish you would just look at the beautiful lights and appreciate the fresh air. I’m so sorry, my baby. I wish I could take the pain away. I wish I could make you feel better.
We got back to the house and my poor husband now had both of his girls in tears. He stripped our daughter out of her outdoor clothes and got her in her high chair for dinner while I escaped to the bedroom and sobbed. Even when I realized that food had been just the ticket and that there was finally blessed contented quiet coming from the dining room, I kept on crying. Why was I reacting so strongly? What hurt so much? After some deep breaths, I realized that I was upset at the feeling of powerlessness. I hated not being able to fix my child’s hurt. But it was more than that. I realized that I was feeling humbled and awed by how the Lord must feel about his children when they are suffering.
I was having a full bodied emotional reaction to how much love and patience the Lord shows us when we make choices that hurt us. Of course, our daughter didn’t choose to make her molars come in, but so often she makes decisions that lead to pain or strife. I try to teach her right from wrong, but sometimes I have to pick up the pieces (often literally) when she makes a mistake. And I will be a bystander to her choices, as much as I will try to guide her, for the rest of her life. That alone feels huge to me, but how much more does the Lord do that for us? The scale of His love and the sadness He must feel when we are hurting is unfathomable and, unlike me, He doesn’t break down. He just handles it. The thought was too much for my aching mother’s heart to bear.
There can be tremendous beauty in pain. My toddler is back to her peppy, impish self these days, for which I am immensely grateful. But I am even more grateful for the humility and gratitude the pain taught me. I have such a special and difficult job as a mother. It is a blessing and one that I couldn’t bear without the Lord as my guide.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever. Amen.