Armed with a camera, in finally gorgeous weather, I hunt beauty in our barely waking yard. Something… Anything…? I spy three dandelions and drop to my belly in the grass, possibly looking like a fool. My five-year-old daughter wants to pick them. “After I’m done taking this shot.” The shot’s a flop. But the perfect shot emerges – my daughter’s hands holding the dandelions! I’m determined to capture it. “Could you hold still for two seconds?” She runs and laughs. I feel mocked.
She tries to give me the bouquet. I was trying to take a photo, not a bouquet. “If you want to give Mommy a gift, I’d rather have a photo.” Did I actually say that? Good question. Probably deserves to be answered. Later.
Understandably, my daughter was frustrated; she stomped inside to find a vase, since Mommy wasn’t going to. I was frustrated; I wanted a different gift than the one offered.
I fumed over the petty deprivation. I was acutely aware those little hands would not always be so little; that photo would have been nostalgic when little hands were grown. Everybody else’s kids pose for the camera. I was only asking her to stand still for two seconds. Was that really too much to ask? Am I really a bad mom for wanting that?
I realize it’s not about capturing weeds anymore. Oh, well, I guess it is. Ugh. Why is it so hard to keep loving when I’m not loved the way I want to be?
“We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) I wasn’t being loving. Somewhere there was a disconnect. Did I need to receive more of God’s love?
God already knew my thoughts, may as well pray. “God, thank you for loving me even when I’m not loving. I don’t love my daughter right now; she’s making me mad, because I didn’t get what I wanted. I know that’s horribly selfish…” I hesitate. It sounds even worse out loud. Ugh again. If I’d been loving, my daughter might have reacted differently. That was still wrong thinking. Maybe if I’d thought about how I could love instead of how I wanted to be loved. Double ugh. Does this heart-cleaning process ever get any easier?
“God, I’m sorry I was so selfish. Will you please forgive me and give me the love for my daughter I don’t have?” I grab a basket of clean laundry. Laundry of the heart, an ever-ongoing process. I check for new emails walking down the hallway, an attempt to distract me from myself. I’m captivated by a blog post by Ann Voskamp. I stand in the middle of the room reading, with a basket of laundry perched on one hip. She quotes from Psalm 23, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” She explains it means mercy and grace will actually hunt us down all the days of our lives.
Here I’d been hunting for beauty, when Beauty had all along been hunting me? Really? Even after the grand opening of a selfish heart?
Something hard inside melts.
Outside my two munchkins amuse themselves with water. The daughter comes inside and calls. Immediately, I set aside the laundry and meet her with my full attention. I want to love her now. To bestow beauty instead of take it. She asks for soap to make homemade bubbles. I get it for her. I think what else I could give to bring her joy – popsicles! Her face lights up, and I kiss the top of her head. She bounds outside happy, pigtails streaming, popsicles in hand.
Thank you, God, for melting my hard heart and helping me give soap and popsicles.
Sure, it was just dandelions and a photo that never was. Sure, it’s just soap and popsicles. But it was really more.
A few days later it hits me. How fitting – soap and popsicles. One cleans, the other melts. One was requested, the other offered freely. Isn’t that how it works? We ask God to clean our hearts, Christ’s blood the perfect soap. But the melting of a hard heart? It’s pure gift. And it can be turned into sweet sustenance – love for others we didn’t previously have.
Will you remember with me? Beauty hunts us with far more intensity than the intensity with which we search for it. Receiving God’s love, even in a form I don’t initially want, is the better alternative than erecting a wall between me and God, and me and others. God can and will clean our hearts when we ask…and even melt them, restoring joy. And after we’ve received God’s love, we’re able to share it.