By Denae Jones –
“My child was hard to love. Therefore, I loved him more.”
I heard a parent saying those words on a call-in radio show a while back, and it has stuck with me ever since. After they got off the line, the host of the show referenced other callers who had echoed the same thing. Young parents with a toddler who is defiant. Parents of teenagers, who have lost their moral compass. Parents of adult children who have some type of addiction. Parents of children with severe behavior issues. Another caller was now an adult, and said he used to be that child who was difficult to love, and proceeded to go down a laundry list of things he put his parents through. He said he will be forever grateful that his parents didn’t give up on him.
It brought me back to when I was a mother of four small children under the age of six. One day I was tossing ball with my three and four year olds, and alternating between them. It was supposed to go to the youngest, but I made a bad throw. When it went to the oldest twice in a row, my 3 year old threw a fit! I told him I didn’t mean to. I was tired. It was a bad throw. I would throw to him twice in a row now. But you can’t reason with a three-year old.
I asked him to sit down on the sidewalk for three minutes to cool down, then he could get back in the game. He sat down, but threw rocks at his sister and me and yelled until I led him to his room. He could come out when he was ready to apologize. However, instead of apologizing, he ran outside and made a beeline to his sister, hit her in the face with a toy car, and ran away. This time, I picked him up and carried him to his room at the top of our steps. When I turned around to go back down, he climbed the gate to his room, tried to push me down the steps, and hit me in his attempt to get past. By this time, my patience was long gone, especially since his sister was still crying in the front yard. I turned him around to go back up the steps, and with every step, I smacked his little bottom. (Not hard, of course. He was three.) But it went something like this: “We (smack) don’t (smack) hit (smack) people (smack) in (smack) this (smack) house (smack)!”
I put him in his room, shut the door and stopped in my tracks. The irony of the situation smacked me in the face just like that toy car. I just did exactly what I was telling him not to! I went back in his room, put him on my lap in the rocking chair, and held him tight, until we both calmed down.
Yes, that child tested my limits. A lot. I probably spent 80 percent of most days trying to give him positive attention so he didn’t misbehave, or disciplining him because he did. At first, I thought it was the ‘terrible two’s,’ but age three was worse! The next year was no better. Finally, he got to the age where he realized he was the only one who got in trouble on a regular basis, and would yell, “You don’t even care about me!” My Mama’s heart would break. If he only knew!
When he was hard to love, I just loved him more. Not more than someone else, just more. Just the way he was. But too much to leave him that way. It would have been easier to ignore the tantrums. To give in. To let him have his way. It would have been more convenient to let him get by with things to avoid the inevitable meltdowns. But he deserved my best effort in raising him, and I refused to take the easy way out. I would not give up on my son. I loved him more than the heartbreak, more than the tantrums, more than my inconveniences.
Sometimes I am brought to tears when I think of how many times in my life that I was also hard to love. Haven’t we all had times when we just really let someone down? Or times when life was just too hard? Our sins were just too big? The challenge was too difficult? The sickness is too long? The heartache is too much? Our actions too unworthy? When we feel like that child yelling out to God, “You don’t even care about me!”
I wonder if God’s heart breaks, thinking, “If they only knew! I love them so much! Just the way they are. But too much to leave them that way.” I wonder if He wants to scoop us up in his arms and say, “You deserved my best, and I did not take the easy way out. I sent you My only Son because I will never give up on you!”
When we are hard to love, God just loves us more. Not more than someone else, just MORE. More than we can imagine.
God’s love is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our sins, our weaknesses, our pride, our addictions, our regrets, and all the times we are hard to love.
I’m happy to report that scrappy little three year old is now a teenager who is awesome at baseball, (all because of tossing ball with me, I’m sure) consistently on the Honor Roll or Principal’s list, and always has other adults telling me how respectful and kind he is. Of course, he’s not perfect. (Neither are we!) But I think he can finally rest assured that Mama and Jesus will never give up on him. Just as God will never give up on us.
Have a blessed weekend, friends!