My daughter told me plainly that she loved me, but that she could not be in my family.
“I don’t look like you.” The warmth of her hand tightly grasped mine in the cool of night.
“You have peach skin. I have brown skin.” We crossed the busy city street.
“You can’t be my mom.” Nighttime’s nightlife competed with her sacred thoughts needing to be heard.
My fingers wrapped around hers a bit stronger than before. My heart loosened as I asked God to give me words that would heal…
“Please God, healing words.” As cars ignite and music booms from open storefronts.
“Healing words, God.” As lovers hold tight and homeless extend empty cups.
“Healing words.” As we walk hand-in-hand in brokenness.
“But the color of our skin isn’t what makes us family…” I needed to say something. “…Our love for one another is what makes us family.” Maybe that’s what I needed to hear?
Even in the midst of night’s clamor, neon signs reflecting off of her perfectly positioned cheekbones, I could hear her impatient sigh.
She wasn’t buying it.
Not this time at least.
Because, she’s old enough now. She’s old enough to know that sweet sayings and “love” speeches don’t satisfy the deep disconnects of the heart and flesh.
I inhaled her sigh deep into the place where my insecurity sits and waits for me. I told it that I would be back later.
I guided her along the crowded sidewalk. We stopped and shared an ice cream sundae. And for a moment, the brokenness rested dormant beneath sticky hot fudge and whipped cream.
For a moment, I was just a mother eating ice cream with her children.
But, I laid awake in bed that night.
You know, when your eyes are almost too scared to close? Too scared because they weren’t able to fix everything they saw in the daylight? Too scared to take the brokenness into the next day?
I couldn’t force them shut as questions with no answers took their place in line.
What could I have said differently? Was it something I had done that caused her to have those thoughts? Was there another book I should read? What if she never fully connects to me? I can’t force her to want me… to choose me… to love me… What if she never loves me back the way I love her?
My eyes grew wider and wider as I lay blanketed by fear and doubt.
I exhaled out all of the insecurity that I had breathed in and together we stared in the stillness.
Until, a gentle interjection sat down beside me…
“I loved you first too…”
“And see how you love me?”
My eyelids began to loosen their grip…
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
He first loved.
He sought me out.
He pursued me.
He drew me in.
He made it right.
He changed my name.
He did it all first.
And there came this point when I chose him back. I loved him back.
“So, love her first.” He said.
Tell me how to fix this… “Love her first.”
Tell me what I need to change… “Love her first.”
Tell me how to be a good mom… “Love her first.”
Tell me where to go from here… “Love her first.”
So, I agreed to make the exchange he offered to me laying in bed that night– What I can’t control with his love.
Because, I can’t soothe every broken thought of my daughter. I can’t make us match. I can’t package our story in a better way that will make it all right.
But, in the morning, as darkness turns to light, I can be the first beat of love to her. I can pursue her heart. I can be the hand to hold her tighter and draw her nearer even when her hand loosens its grip.
I can love her first.
I can do this because He’s shown me how. I can love because he first loved me.