Eight years ago, a new ritual in my life began. I brought my precious son home from the hospital for the first time and have spent nearly every night since praying over him and singing him to sleep.
Throughout those songs and many sleepless nights, God taught me more than I could have imagined about love: what the action of love really looks like and how our earthy expressions still only scratch the surface in portraying God’s immeasurable love for me, for us.
I’ve always enjoyed sleep. I was the kid who never outgrew naps and treasured every weekend and summer vacation more from the joy of sleeping in late than other activities taking place.
That appreciation for a long stretch of sleep hasn’t left, but the practicality of it sure has! Zechariah was well into his third year before he slept through the night. And even then, he’s always found joy in arising before the sun.
This is just one example of an area where my flesh has wrestled through the years; but my heart has always won. I don’t lie in bed with Zechariah each night reading, praying and singing because my body always feels like it. I don’t wake up at 2am to hold and comfort him after he’s had a bad dream because I enjoy the idea of an interrupted night’s rest. I do it out of my love for him and the desire I have to move beyond my flesh to provide what he needs.
Like most children, Zechariah loves the art of play. With two older siblings who live outside of the home, he doesn’t have playmates readily on hand.
I work 40 plus hours per week and juggle a number of other responsibilities outside of employment. Does my body always feel like playing at 6 o’clock at night or 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning? Most often, no. But it’s something every child needs; so I press through and do it anyway. Not out of obligation or feeling “I have to” … it’s out of the motivation of love and joy that comes from seeing my child smile as he delights in my presence.
I recently read, “The days are long but the years are short.” How true this is when it comes to life, and especially parenting. Do I want to go through those long days only serving myself, my flesh and my perceived needs? Or do I want to spend my life pouring into others and giving them the time, love and attention they crave and need?
I want my son to look back on his childhood and remember the laughter, living room wrestling matches and tickle fights, dance parties and games played. I don’t want him to just remember the words of “I love you” he often hears; I want him to remember the feeling of what those words really meant when transcended into action.
And I believe I’m not alone. I believe most parents desire the same, but often don’t know how to get there.
It starts by recognizing the desire we have for our kids is the same desire God has for us. He longs to see us smile and be the source of that joy. He longs to go through life enjoying us and seeing us remember the ways in which He lavished His love upon us through His actions and time.
There may be days when we are too busy to give our kids the time we both desire, but God never is. He’s never too busy to pay attention to our needs and listen to our prayers. He delights in us. When we’re awake; when we’re asleep.
I’ll never be the perfect parent; but He always will. And He gives us an example – through His parenting and through the children He’s given – to follow. So let’s embrace what it really looks like to love the way He loves. Not only our children, but one another – wholeheartedly, unconditionally and unselfishly.
Love is not just a word, it’s an action and one that transforms. May you find yourself transformed by His love today.