I wonder what it’s like for God to watch us be in pain.
I remember hearing Donald Miller once talk about a very dark season in his life. He talked about sitting in a hotel lobby during this season and he said he remembered thinking that up until that point, he never really understood why anyone would want to commit suicide. And while he made it clear he did not want to kill himself, he said: “But in that moment, I got it.”
He didn’t have any desire to kill himself, but for the first time, he understood why somebody might want to.
I really love my daughter. She’s only 16 months old but she is such a delight and my heart experiences a level of love for her I never knew I was capable of. The draw I have to love her, encourage her, and protect her is overwhelming.
But sometimes, the intensity of my desire to protect her causes me to suddenly begin imagining outrageous situations of danger.
And I find this influencing my behavior.
When Eva begins to move towards the top of the stairs, I jump up out of my chair to ensure the baby gate is closed, despite vividly remembering shutting in 30 seconds before.
I get out of bed and walk through the house at 3am to make sure the doors I locked and double checked at 2am are still locked.
I back out of the driveway at a record breakingly slow speed while checking all 4 mirrors in my car 16 times a second.
I give Eva a bath while crouched on my toes like an athlete waiting to bolt in a sprint to catch her from going below the water’s surface if she slips.
I drop, throw, and step on five-hundred-dollar electronics the moment she starts crying from the other room or on the other side of the couch when I can’t see her.
I react and spill entire cups of water as I bolt to pick her up when she hits her head or pinches her finger.
All this because I have an extremely intense desire to protect her. And while bumping her head or slipping in the bath tub is intense enough, even worse are the mind games that begin to plague me.
My mind begins to spiral down an irrational path of absurd situations involving all the ways that Eva could potentially get hurt. I begin recalling news stories about freak accidents that resulted in young children and babies being hurt or killed. I start to imagine someone breaking into our house, or a wreckless driver smashing into our car, or Eva falling and landing in some funky way that does irreparable damage. And much worse.
My protective nature for Eva can often times turn into a very fearful, irrational, overprotective thing that then controls my thoughts and actions.
And in the midst of battling these thoughts, I remember thinking this thought: “I have never wanted to be an overprotective parent…but I get it now.”
For the first time, I had an understanding of why some parents end up totally overprotecting and sheltering their children. Why it’s so hard for some parents to let their kids out of their sight or home or emotional connection. The desire to protect someone you care so much about can lead to wanting to protect them in any and every way possible.
And for the first time in my life, it all made sense to me.
And yet I don’t want to be like this with Eva! I want her to make her own journey, to explore, adventure, discover, make mistakes, try new things, gain confidence, grow her independence, become her own person! I love watching her do that! And I can’t wait to learn that balance of holding her hand when needed and letting her try it on her own when needed.
But at the same time, there might be times when she will need to get hurt.
I don’t mean I want her to get hurt but the reality is, sometimes her getting hurt might be the best, or dare I say only way for her to learn/grow/live/become who God has made her to be
She might get her heart broken.
She might make the wrong choice.
She might touch the stove.
She might come home crying.
She might be betrayed.
She might fail.
She might fall.
And it will kill me. I will rush to her side and hold her and dry her tears and speak encouraging things to her. Every time.
But the reality is that she will get hurt.
And while that will be difficult for me to watch, I also know that it is a good thing.
As C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, and screams to us in our pain.”
Because as imperfect as a father I am and will be, God is not. He is a perfect Father. And He, again and again, allows His children to be hurt. Not because He wants it to happen necessarily, not because He likes it, not because He can’t stop it, but I think it’s because He knows it is serving a higher purpose.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4
Our sufferings produce hope. My hurt produces hope. Eva’s pain will produce hope.
God knows this, and as illogical as it might seem, I know it too.
When I pray for Eva every night as I hold her tightly to my chest and her eye lids get heavy, I don’t ever pray that she won’t get hurt. Because I know that won’t happen. And also because I want her to become who God made her to be, which probably means she’ll get hurt.
So instead, I pray that God would be with her and that she would know Him and love Him.
Then I lay her down in her crib and walk downstairs.
Most of the time I don’t want to let her go, but as I’ve heard from many parents before, the process of raising a child is caring for them when they’re totally dependent…and then learning to let go of them.
And if it’s as difficult for me as I anticipate, I know it’s gotta be that much more difficult for God.
But I also know this: whenever we are hurt or in pain, God is right there. Not to take our pain away, but to be with us while we go through it. Jesus never said life would be easy or painless, He just promised that He would never leave us alone.