I stand a silent witness, his tears drying in their own time, leaving salt-powdered trails down that beautiful, round face. His hands are clenched over his eyes and, despite the fact that I have discovered him crouched behind the bathroom door, he's certain that he's invisible so long as they keep tightly closed. Cheeks pink and hair rumpled, my precious three-year-old sits motionless, expressing feelings in the only way that he knows how. Unable to put a name to the hurt in his heart, he hides - which makes all the sense in the world.
I know this scene is familiar to those of us called Mom or Dad, Papa, Nana, Aunt, or maybe Grammy. I sometimes wonder if, in the providing and the bringing-up, we distance ourselves from the three-year-old experience that's oftentimes our own. Big people tantrums just take on a different form, don't they?
They have names. "Busy." "Sense". "Unlucky". Or "Adventure".
They're the young adults who move to faraway places in reaction to the dissatisfaction of now. They're the Moms who check out of the marriage and into the romance novel. They're the Dads chasing praise at the office when none seems to flow from the home. They're even the lonely men and women who tire of waiting for companionship and look to places that sensitive hearts have no place venturing.
In our grown-up tantrums, we often run - maybe not always physically, but emotionally. Indeed, if we even choose our words carefully, we can paint them to look as if they are "God's plan" for our lives, "meant to be."
It's in the hiding that we perceive protection.
In his own time, the breathing slows, the fists relax, and he becomes ready to face his little piece of the world that's our family once again. "Mom, are you here?"
In that single question, he speaks aloud the desire God-planted into every heart - the three-year-old heart and the 83-year-old heart.
Am I alone or are you here?
If I ran, would you call me back?
If I left, would you miss me?
Do you need me?
In our reactions to the pain of this world, it's so tempting to leap out of harm's way, to entertain thoughts that are so heavy that shoulders hunch under the weight and feet refuse to move, not one more inch:
"They're better off without me around.
I'll be safer if I'm the one calling the shots.
Come closer. Stop! That's close enough.
Nobody understands me," we say.
The risk seems insurmountable. But, what if we hold on and we reach out? What if we hold still and conquer the fear? What if we allow somebody to...See.
My legs get tired of running, don't yours?
Loved ones, let's stay. Let's stay when we're scared, or lonely, or exhausted. Let's stay when we're misunderstood or don't agree. Let's remain present just a little bit longer as the tears fall and the chest tightens and the feelings are left raw and open.
Until they aren't anymore. That moment when we allow Him to catch up.
Sometimes God calls us to change - to new cities, to new people, or to remain right where we are, with new hearts. If we go in response to the pain of past experience, we'll drown out His voice with the breathless pants of our sprint and the overwhelming sound of our shoes thumping against the pavement.
Stay. Because you're worth knowing.
With you and for you,
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:2-6
Questions to consider:
1. Are you running? From what?
2. What are some of those scary thoughts you may be having that indicate a need for help?
3. Who do you need to ask for support?
4. What scripture can you focus on this week will help you to build courage and faith in God?
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.