It was 10pm, and I was stalling. She’d been asleep for almost an hour on my shoulder, but I didn’t want to put her down. I loved the smell of her breath, the way she cuddled into my neck, and how she always fell asleep with her hand over my heart – as though my steady heartbeat comforted her enough that she could relax and rest. This was my favorite time of day…
Just a few more minutes. Then I’ll put her in bed and finish up my Bible homework. I don’t know what I’m going to do for tomorrow’s devotion anyway.
Knowing that I was going to take more than the few minutes I promised, I sat down on the cool linoleum, propped myself against the refrigerator, closed my eyes, and leaned my head back, allowing myself to enjoy the moment.
“She’s perfect, isn’t she?” It was the first time I heard the voice.
Yes, she is.
“And you love her?”
I’d do anything for her.
“Even when she turns two and starts to say, ‘I want…’ and ‘No!’?”
I hope so.
“Even when she challenges you and runs away?”
As soon as I heard the voice say “runs away”, I saw a short movie-like scene roll through my imagination. I was on the edge of a playground, watching her play. When I saw that her shoelace was untied, I yelled across the playground for her to stop running, but she couldn’t hear me over the excitement of reaching the swings. I could see the fall coming, but she couldn’t hear me. Crash! She hit her cherub face on the steel post and started crying. I ran over to her and wrapped my arms around her, trying to calm her down. Thank heavens it was only in my imagination!
“Would you be angry with her?”
No. I didn’t feel angry. I felt scared for her and, I guess, frustrated that I couldn’t save her from that pain.
“Did you think she was trying to ignore you? Why didn’t you scold her?”
She didn’t seem to know any better. She was excited and didn’t know her laces were untied.
“Do you know how much I love you?”
As much as I love her? I smiled at the thought that someone could love me so much.
“More. But you don’t understand that my love for you is exactly like your love for her. You’re so scared to make mistakes because you’ve been told it makes me angry, but it doesn’t. You don’t know what you don’t know. And with what you do know, I see you out there, doing your best. You are allowed to make mistakes and grow and learn and stumble and get up again, Amanda. Give yourself the same grace you would give to her, and know that I already do. And when you’re tired, you can do the same thing she does – crawl into an open embrace and go to sleep to the sound of my steady, unconditional love.”
Overwhelmed, I let the tears roll down my cheeks. It was the first time I felt LOVE wrap itself around me and give me permission to take the risk to just be me in every moment. And it felt like a risk to me. I was the daughter who wanted to make her parents proud. I was the big sister that prayed to be a good model for my siblings. I was the leader at school and in my youth group that adults were expecting to set an example for my peers. I was the friend who didn’t have all the answers for many who were dealing with depression, substance abuse, and traumas of every kind. It was a risk because I didn’t always know “the right thing to do or say” in every moment, and I had felt paralyzed by fear that I would disappoint, or worse, do harm.
But there, on the floor of my kitchen, my little sister became my teacher – inspiring the beginning of my message of Unconditional Love, Worth, and Purpose.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I would learn. And with what I did know, I’d do my best, knowing that the love wouldn’t waver when I stumbled.
“Now go write it all down so you can share it tomorrow in Bible Class. They are scared too.”