I walked into the gym 15 minutes before the game started. I looked around to find my daughter. When my eyes found her, I saw her looking back at me. She had a basketball in her hand and looked to be waiting for my attention before she took her practice shot. She shot and made it. She looked back at me for some kind of reaction and I smiled as big as I could and gave her two thumbs up. She quickly grabbed another ball and shot again. This time she missed and she looked to me again to see my response, I smiled and lifted my shoulders and hands and gestured in a way that conveyed, “Oh well, you’ll do better next time.” Satisfied with my reaction she continued to practice all the time watching me watch her.
During that unspoken interaction, I was astounded at the thought of how great my reaction influenced her self-worth. If when she missed, I had reacted with disappointment and embarrassment, what message would she have received? What message did she receive by my reaction? Did she understand in that reaction that my love and approval is not based on performance? Did she feel supported and important?
That got me thinking…
What if after the game I decided to “coach” her and told her everything she did wrong and how she could do better? Would she think herself a bad player? What if I focused on what she did right and only praised her? Would she become prideful? What if I left the game distracted and didn’t comment at all? Would she see herself as insignificant? What if I didn’t go to the games at all? Who would she have looked to for affirmation? A friend? A boy?
Running those questions through my mind quickly overwhelmed me with the huge responsibility I’ve been given by the blessing of being a parent. I had a deep desire to do right by my daughter. I want to love her so well that when she isn’t with me, my love will go with her. I want her to know that no wrongs will ever cause me to stop loving her, that there is some powerful force of motherhood that has bound our hearts together forever.
How in the world will I ever be able to love her enough? How can I express how deep and strong my love for her is? These thoughts were so overwhelming that I dropped to my knees and I called out to the only one who has ever loved perfectly. “How God, How do I (an imperfect, broken human) love my children well?”
The answer is obvious. “Jesus looked at me and said, ‘with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:26)
In order to be what my children need me to be, I have to constantly look to God. I have to understand his ways. I need to see how he dealt with his children. God is so patient with us. He loves us completely. He let’s us succeed and fail. He is always watching. He is patient and understanding. He yearns for us the way I yearn for my children. Have you ever thought about that? God YEARNS for you! He looks forward to every moment you spend together. He brags to the angels about you. He allows us to suffer consequences because he knows that suffering leads to perseverance. Romans 5:3-5 “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
What I realized is that how I respond to my daughter is not scripted. I respond according to her need. If she needs me to build her up, I build her up. If she needs me to “coach” her and she can handle it in the moment, then I “coach” her. If she just needs a hug without words, that’s what I do.
If I, who am flawed and broken, can love my daughter so well… how much more is God’s love?