My relationship with my oldest, Mr. C, involves wrestling and stealing kisses. When I want to show him love, I’m not allowed to hug or kiss him openly unless it’s right before bed–and even that privilege is given grudgingly. He wouldn’t be caught hugging or kissing me or anyone else he loves (oh, and don’t ever use THAT word around him, either), but running and jumping up on me like a mix between a bull and a flying monkey, clinging to me with every small muscle he has–THAT’s not a hug, and that’s ok. If I want to tell him I’m proud of him, he wants to hear it, but I’ve got to keep it low-key, or his embarrassment drowns out the compliment. He’s not much interested in having me play toys with him, but he’ll hang around and watch me play a computer game for as long as I play.
My relationship with my middle child, Little E, makes me think of porcupines and koalas. One hour she’s affectionate and doesn’t want to let go of me until I cover her face with kisses, but the next hour she reflexively punches me in the face because I surprised her with a kiss on the cheek. She wants my praise to be loud and exuberant. She often wants me to play toys with her or show me what’s she created. If we’re in public and across the room, she often wants me to make eye contact with her, while making some kind of endearing hand symbol that all can see (a fact that she doesn’t seem to notice). If we’re in public and can be with each other, she clings to me without embarrassment.
My relationship with my youngest, JP, swings between cuddles and independence. He is usually happy to give me a big smack on the cheek or lips, accompanied by a generous arms-wide hug. As soon as he gets up from a nap, he shuffles out sleepily to find my lap, where he snuggles close until he fully wakes. Then he’s off to happily play on his own with myriads of Mr. C.’s old toys. In public, he stays close to me, holding my hand or asking to be held, but he usually doesn’t look back when I drop him off at our church’s childcare.
When Mr. C is mad at me, he glares but doesn’t say much. When Little E is mad, she gives me guilt trips and screams (sometimes for hours). When JP is mad, he screams and says it’s my fault but then is over it pretty quickly.
Every mother will tell you the same story with different characters: we parents have a different relationship with each one of our children. We know the reason why. Each of our children has his or her own unique personality, which will interact with our personality in different ways.
Why do I say all of this?
I say this because a month or so ago, I read a prayer written by Anne Graham Lotz, a very spiritual woman whom I respect. Her prayer was written for others to read to God themselves, to inspire more prayer. When I read it, though, I was just overwhelmed by it, thinking I could never have a relationship with God the way Anne does. I feel I’ll never be spiritual enough to pray the way she does.
I’ve heard of other women who hear direct words from God–specific prophetic messages to tell others, which encourage others greatly. I feel jealous (hopefully a spiritual jealousy!) when I hear this because I want that kind of relationship with God.
I think about Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite monk who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God. This man learned to pray as regularly as breathing. I tried to start learning this practice but didn’t get very far between the distractions of teaching spelling, making lunch, and disciplining for disobedience (sometimes at the same time).
I may sometime in my life be able to pray like Anne Graham Lotz. I may be given a prophetic gift. Hopefully, I will be more aware of God’s presence every year. However, when I look at the different relationships I have with each of my kids, I realize that I will always have a different relationship with God, my Father, than His other kids do, and that’s ok. As long as my unique relationship with Him is steadily getting closer and more intimate my whole life, it doesn’t have to look like Beth Moore’s, Thomas Merton’s, or C.S. Lewis’. I can learn from these godly people, but I can also rest in the confidence that God loves me the way He made me and will interact with me in a way that fits with my personality. God and I will have our own inside jokes, and we do.
When I look at these other Christians, sometimes I let myself get overwhelmed, but when I look to God, I feel comfortable in my relationship with Him. I feel loved.