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.

About Justine Buss

Justine Buss and her family are currently based in Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and studied theatre and English at Muhlenberg College. She spent her professional career working with young people in theatre and is now a full time stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She stays in touch with her theatre roots by directing Christmas and New Church Day pageants, helping with school plays, and taking an improv class. She also enjoys singing, creative writing (including the occasional murder mystery party game), bargain hunting, and going on adventures with her family. She is grateful for the expressive outlet that New Christian Woman provides. It's so good to take the time to reflect on and write about the things that are on our minds and hearts.

10 thoughts on “Teething

  1. “I am even more grateful for the humility and gratitude the pain taught me. ”
    How true, Justine. What a powerful, comforting, uplifting thought.

  2. Thank you Justine. I really relate to what you say about picking up the pieces and standing there feeling helpless. I’ve been comforted when worried about how the Lord can bear our pushing Him away etc to think that His love is always balanced by His wisdom.
    I know that was a traumatic day; I hadn’t grasped how traumatic!
    I’m so sorry. But maybe it’s a kind of good since getting pulverized softens our meat.
    Much love on your road as Mommy. Rosalie is lucky to have you.

  3. Thank you, Justine! So beautifully and honestly expressed. I’ve had glimpses into this powerlessness and it is so incredibly jarring, and sad.

    It is a sobering thought to realise that we can hurt the Lord so much more than anything or anyone else. And so useful in despelling the lie that something is ok because it “doesn’t hurt anyone.”

    1. How true! It is wild to think of little seemingly insignificant human beings being able to hurt the Lord, but we do. But His Love and Wisdom are so all-encompassing that He never loves us any less for the hurt we cause to ourselves, to others, or to Him.

  4. Beautifully written Justine! A lot of mothering for me has been realising it is not my job to protect anyone; me, my spouse our children or friends, from a struggle. We learn so much, grow so much and can connect with others so much through struggle. But oh how our mommy hearts long to be the ” good fairy” and make it all go away for those we love. What must it be like for the LORD and His angels to lovingly allow us that space?

    1. It is so hard to let go of other peoples’ struggles! The good fairy analogy really rings true for me. So often I desperately yearn for a magic wand quick fix and they rarely exist. Things keep evolving, so things that work one moment will not work at all the next. Thank you for reading!

  5. ‘In all their adversity He had adversity, and the Angel of His faces saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He carried them, and He bore them, all the days of eternity.’ (Isaiah 63:9)

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