This morning, while out finishing up the grocery shopping, my oldest kept noticing my painted nails. She LOVES anything girly and painted nails are no exception. She kept asking “could you paint my nails?”, “when can you paint my nails?”, and “could we paint my nails today?” I strove, and mostly succeeded, to maintain an even temper and gently answer each question. (Please know: my painted nails were NOT the only subject) My oldest struggles with quietness. She feels that if the space around us is quiet, something must be wrong. Talking and maintaining the relationship is something that makes her feel safe.
So, even though her questions tested my patience this morning, when she laid awake in her bed for almost 2 hours this afternoon, I took pity on her and allowed her to get up from nap before her sisters were awake. And, because I had been touching up my nails, all my nail supplies were out, and, I decided to offer her an extra blessing. I painted her nails. And here is where the real story begins.
While I was painting her nails, my daughter relaxed, remained silent, and leaned her head against my arm while I finished up.
She relaxed, remained silent, and leaned her head against my arm.
I have younger siblings. I have loads of nieces and nephews. I have babysat countless adorable little ones. I know this is not a weird behavior. It is an action of trust. A lack of fear. A sign of comfort. It is natural for children to feel this way around their parents. However, this is very rare behavior from my daughter.
You see, my daughter still views the world through a lens of fear. She is not comfortable the majority of the time. She does not trust me entirely.
My daughter learned, during the first 3 years of her life, that she was the only one. If she cried, she was the only one who could meet her need. When she felt scared, she was the only one who could keep her (and her 2 little sisters) safe. When she was unsure of where her next meal would come from, she was the only one who could who could control her surroundings. She created a little world where she was safe. She was comfortable. She was in charge. This was a system she could trust. This was a system that worked. She could count on herself. She wouldn’t stop caring for her. She was safe…in her care.
And do you know what I am in her world? I am a threat. If she trusts me, she can no longer trust herself, and this is scary. This is life-changing. This is real. This is a behavior that she learned. A behavior she had to learn. She wasn’t given a choice. But, this is also something I must begin to show her can be “un-learned.” I must begin to teach. I must begin to show that this is not the only reality she can know.
If you know my daughter, you know that she is sweet. You know that she is loving. That she is lovable and loves to be cuddled and loved. She will latch on to you and seem to give herself completely into your care. It’s not an act. She loves big and loves to be loved. But you are safe. You are not a threat. You are not in her life every day. You are not the one asking for a special place in her life. The place. The place she has not surrendered to anyone since her infancy. That place in her little world where she is in charge. Where she is safe. Where no one threatens her reign. No one seeks to de-throne her terrified little heart.
I get it. I live this way often myself. I want to be safe and I will do what it takes (even sinfully) to ensure that happens. Just ask my husband. I am a master at manipulating situations so that I can control my feelings. My safety. My emotions. So, I get it. I understand. I can see right through the armor that she has carefully constructed to keep herself secure.
And so, when my daughter silently relaxed and leaned her head against my arm, I remained silent. I simply enjoyed the moment. I finished painting her nails. I kissed her sweet forehead.
And I gave her up. I gave her to the only One who can truly care for her.
“My darling daughter. I understand that, in your eyes, I am a threat to your safety at the same time that I am the security you are most desperately seeking. I understand that you are not trying to hurt me. I understand that it will take time. I understand that I will have to prove myself. That you will have to learn to trust me. I understand that you have been trained to think so differently than I do. I understand that you have experienced things in your short life that I will likely never experience. I understand.
And, dear daughter, I want you to understand something. I love you. I will be here. As long as God gives me breath, I will fight for your heart. You are mine. Mine to hold. Mine to protect. Mine to care for. Mine to treasure. I will continue to seek to win your trust through consistently loving you. By being there when you fall apart. By sitting calmly through your outburst. By sitting quietly and waiting until you are ready to talk.
You see, my precious little girl, I will do all these things because I understand something else. I am not enough. No matter how much I love you. No matter how patiently and consistently I seek to help you understand. No matter how much I give to you. I am not enough. You have a gaping wound. A hole. A longing that I cannot fill. There is only One who can love you perfectly. Only One who can be trusted completely. Only One who cares more for your safety than you. And me. Only One who gave everything to make you His. And, I pray, my little one. I pray that you will one day belong to Him. That you will recklessly choose to abandon your heart to His goodness.
Because He… Jesus Christ… His love is not a threat to you.”
~for Norra on 12.23.14