Yesterday my seven- year daughter came to me with a startling confession. “Mom, I’ve been thinking some mean things about you lately.” Pause.
“Really? What kinds of mean things?”
“Well, I don’t want to tell you because it will hurt your feelings.”
“It’s ok, I can handle it. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
“I really don’t want to.” At this point her eyes welled up with tears and threatened to spill over. It took me the better part of ten minutes to coax her out of her hovel of fear and share those forbidden secrets.
“I’ve been thinking that you’re really mean and I don’t like you.” Another pause. It took me a full minute to collect my bearings before I could answer her.
“What could I have possibly done that would make you not like me?”
“Well you yell at me and it hurts my feelings.”
By now we’re both trying not to cry and I’m battling feelings ranging from extreme guilt to anger to flashbacks of my own dysfunctional childhood. I finally settled on defense.
“I see. Well, here’s the thing. While I agree that yelling is wrong and it’s something I shouldn’t do, there is a reason why I raise my voice. When I can’t get your attention or when I’ve repeated myself so many times that I feel like I’m going to go crazy and you’re still not doing what you’re told, that’s when I yell. I know I shouldn’t do it and it is something I’m working on. How about if we make a deal? If you promise to start listening more and doing what you’re told the first time, I promise that I will not raise my voice and yell at you. Does that sound fair?”
The tears finally gave way as she nodded her agreement. I hugged her and told her that I loved her, that she was still my favorite little girl in the whole world and that I loved her more than chocolate and puppies and new shoes. I thought we were ok. I was wrong.
This morning she came to me again with another confession. She was still thinking mean thoughts about me. This time I cut right to the chase.
“Baby, you’ve got to stop this. Remember the memory verse we’ve been working on? Whatever things are true, honest, lovely, pure…” (Apparently we’re working on memorizing the verse together) She shook her head up and down.
“You have to kick those mean things out of your head. The truth is that I’m not mean. I let you spend time with your friends after school, I buy you new clothes and toys, and I’m even planning a birthday party for you. Do you know that I didn’t have any of those things when I was a kid?”
“No. I was not allowed to play with friends after school and I never got new clothes. You have your own room. Do you know I had to share a room with my brother? I think you’re pretty lucky, don’t you?”
This time the tears came much faster. She hugged me and told me she was sorry for thinking those things about me. She thanked me for all the things I do for her. I told her that even if she thought those things all the time and never thanked me for anything I would still love her. Even if she was very mean and told me she hated me, I would still love her and want to do nice things for her. Then a sobering truth stabbed me in the gut.
“Do you know that God feels the same way? Even when we get angry and decide we don’t like him or the way our life is going, he still loves us and still wants to do nice things for us? Even when we think that life isn’t fair, that we’re not getting what we should be getting, God still loves us the same and still wants to know and fellowship with us. How cool is that?”
I came home and repented on the spot. For two weeks I’ve been harboring anger, depression, and malicious thoughts toward others. I’ve been in a rage because I’ve been in physical pain and because my living situation is less than ideal at the moment. I’ve been avoiding God because my own self- pity has overtaken any rational thoughts or actions. Like my daughter, I’ve chosen to see the negative things rather than the positive. The truth is that God still loves me, he still wants me to be happy, and he still wants to fellowship with me. He doesn’t care that I’m angry. He just wants to hear me say that I love him. In fact, I’m willing to bet that he’d settle for any conversation, just so long as I’m not avoiding him anymore.
Jesus understands my pain and frustration. He’s been there. He knows what it’s like to be uncomfortable and I’m sure at times he’s wished for different living conditions. If I remember correctly, he didn’t even have a permanent home. At the same time, none of these things ever stopped him from praising God and spending time with his father. He refused to allow his outside circumstances to prevent him from doing the will of his Lord. When he was called, he obeyed, no matter what obstacle was in front of him.
I am sobered and humbled at how much I still have to grow. Even after learning ways to beat depression at its own game, I still have the ability to wimp out. I’d still rather hide under the covers than take up my sword and fight. The thing is, today I learned something. Every time I look at that beautiful child and tell her how much I love her, enough to die for her, I hear the words of my Daddy God.