When the rain is blowin’ in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love.
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.
I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawlin’ down the avenue
No, there’s nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love.
Though storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regrets
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothin’ like me yet.
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love.
(“Make You Feel My Love,” Bob Dylan)
Two persistent thoughts on this:
First, I wish I could make everything perfect for him. I wanted the best, most classic wooden pencils and the pinkest Pink Pearl. I want a kindergarten teacher with a PhD. I want everyone to recognize what a delightful, hilarious, intelligent, and passionate little boy he is. I never want him to be picked on, ignored or have a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day. And so the night before his first day when the pencils and eraser disappeared and the neighbor talked about sketchy bus schedules I was in a bit of a panic. I laid in bed with David and cried “I just want everything to be perfect for him” and the Holy Spirit turned my own words on me like a tiny little stinger that kept on pricking. Really, why would I want this? Well, because this is what we all want, were born wanting. But, having been taught the Bible and the life of Christ as I have I should have known better. My foolishness here is so clear. 1) As if I could provide this. 2) Feeling the drag of this world’s fall from perfection is exactly what will show him his need of a Savior. 3) If there is any tiny seed of trust in his heart then the Spirit will use the blaze of hardship to sprout it. The embryonic theodicy conversations we’re having about lightning and thunder and why God doesn’t make it stop as soon as we pray are terrifying. Terrifying because he’s meeting a God that even his parents can’t explain and that doesn’t always give all the answers. The choice to trust or reject has become clear. And rather than wanting for him a life with no questions, I must want for him the faith of One who could cry out ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” and yet trust. If I am in tears over a Pink Pearl eraser can you imagine the torrent of emotion that flooded the Father when his Son called to him. Dying. Talk about wanting perfection. But in this world there is only life on the other side of death.
The above Dylan song embodies the type of no-holes-barred love I think a parent feels. Every time I hear it I get sniffly and teary-eyed (which why I keep meaning to take it off my work playlist…). There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love. But while I never want my boys to doubt my love for them, my love can’t meet their deepest needs. So playing mother bear with God’s sovereignty should be where I draw the line. There will be some horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days but I’m begging the Spirit to meet Clive there and bring him the Son of a Father whose love will someday make all things right again.
Second, it’s just plain weird that he has this little independent life. He gets on the bus and for the next 3 ½ hours innumerable things happen to him minute by minute that I’m lucky to get a minimal summary of later. Up until this point there was very little that happened in his life that I wasn’t completely apprised of, if not experiencing it right alongside him. There was very little I had to inquire about let alone wonder about. Lauren Winner wrote that the only times in life when two individuals are so intertwined they are indistinguishable is intercourse and pregnancy. But even when I was pregnant I remember realizing the independence of this entirely other person. I couldn’t make him stop kicking me. Up until that moment he was this opinionless, will-less amoeba, but he insisted upon kicking at especially inconvenient times and in especially painful places and there was nothing I could do to make him stop. And so he made his personhood known. There’s this illusion in motherhood that our child’s life is the tiny universe over which we are god. It’s an easy trap to fall into and I think it happens like this: helpless tiny bag of bones comes home from hospital and depends on you for survival. You do the only obvious decent thing and help it survive only to realize that it will take nearly everything you have and yet you keep on giving and giving and giving. Then suddenly one day they don’t need you anymore and all the routines of care and feelings of significance that have filled your life go running away with them. Of course it doesn’t have to happen like that and there a multitude of varieties on this theme, but there are enough moping, controlling and bored older women to prove it a common pattern. We insist that our kids stay by our side or we emotionally manipulate them into guilt for not doing so or we fall for the lie that motherhood is our only meaning and occupation in life. What we need is a view of our lives as image-bearers that fits before kids, with kids, without kids, after kids and for all eternity. The picture of ourselves as the sole responsible, omniscient and omnipotent party over the lives of our children is not going to work. Because we don’t fit any of those categories. We’re not the only: God clearly designed for fathers to be part of this process from the very, ahem, beginning. And Hillary may have thought it takes a village but the believer should think it takes a body. There’s a balance of gifts and diversity within the church that is a protection for ourselves from myopic pride and its destruction upon our children. Let the church have her wise way. It’s not perfect, but you are a part of its imperfect glory. And let God have his way. We don’t fit any of the above categories, but he is the very definition. There is story upon story in the Scriptures of idiot parents and the God who rescued their children. This of course does nothing to take away the duties incumbent upon us as parents but there is a sort of limitlessness to the job here that requires fine-tuned lowliness. The right type of parenting will (as Charles Anderson wrote of busyness) say, “I can’t do much but I am motivated to do as much as I can because God deserves whatever I have.” The wrong type of parenting is a refusal to recognize either our responsibilities or our limits. It says, “If I just work a little harder, buy a few more things, read them a few more books, explain this to them, get them to eat healthier food, be more consistent in my training, take this educational path, etc., etc., then they will have a healthy, happy, successful life.” If only. It’s a tricky thing to draw the boundaries here because it is true that our influence and obligation is huge—how can you give too much to someone whose entire existence you shape from the first breath? But Satan knows to take this gift and use it to feed our security and sense of importance and we dance most ungracefully towards justification by works rather than faith. Precisely because it is so huge we must hold the reins tightly on our self-sufficiency. When little eyes look up to you, point them beyond yourself to their Maker.
I was reading Jonah this week and found it unexpectedly fitting. Here is a man just ripped that God’s will was done and not his. Jonah would rather die than lose his grip on his own self-righteousness and perceived injustices in life. God pointedly asks him twice, “As you right to be so angry?” Jonah thought he knew better than God, but as God reminded him, he had created everything that Jonah was so self-righteous about. Sometimes we get in such a self-righteous hot bother we completely miss that we are trying to override the Creator himself, the One who loves our children more than we ever can.