It was yesterday. I was making a quick run to the grocery store to fill our empty 5-gallon water bottle (the tap water here–undrinkable–and my standards are pretty low!). David was home so I left the baby with him and took Judah. He loves any excuse to leave the house, so this was exciting. We’re riding in the van! We’re getting out someplace that isn’t home! I even let him put the coins in the water machine slot, so it’s almost as fun as Chuck-E-Cheese!
So as we were driving, my mind wandered as it does from thinking about how he has to sit in the back seat right now because he’s so little, to someday we’ll run errands together and he’ll be this boy on the front seat next to me. I was trying to imagine him at, say, 15. How tall he’ll be. How he’ll think I’m funny and we’ll have great conversations (my daydream, my optimistic imagination. No mopy teenagers allowed!). Then I was dropping him off at a friend’s house, where he would be making all sorts of decisions without me. Without me knowing! Without me seeing! That’s one of the few advantages to him being a toddler right now: I am his conscience. So I was thinking about what I would say to 15-year-old Judah getting out of the car to spend unsupervised (by me) time at his imaginary friend’s house. I thought about saying “be safe,” or “don’t do anything I wouldn’t” (which, depending on which age of my life we’re talking about, wouldn’t be much insurance against some pretty bad decision-making!).
That’s when it hit me. I would tell him I love him. “I love you, Judah.” And he would say it right back, because he’s that kind of teenager. Then I would drive away and two things would happen: 1) he would know his mother loves him, and 2) he would (hopefully) want to make choices that love me back.
I was telling David about this little daydream later, because I don’t have very many interesting real-life stories after you weed out the ones about picking up toys and filling sippy cups and blocking my baby as her brother tries to hit her with a wire whisk. Oddly enough, when I was thinking about how I’d love my teenage son, I didn’t have any amazing revelations about God loving me. But as I told my husband, that’s when I saw it. That’s what God does. That’s what He wants. He has commandments and such, because I need to know what the basic ground rules are, but before I get out of the car He just says: I love you. Because He’s a smart parent like me (ha!), and He invented this kind of situation where loving back is the best reason I can think of to do what He wants me to. Not because “He said so” or because He’ll pour down terrible boiling bowls of judgment if I don’t, but just because:
I love you back, God.