Sunday, April 17, 2016


My Reed.  Wonderful, creative, intelligent, kind and gentle yet adventurous son Reed.  My heart swells when I think of this kid.  And yet, he is in so many ways my mystery child.  He has never been one to let me peer closely into his rich, inner world, and now he is off at school, two hours away.  

During his high school years I sensed it was important to grant him the freedom he seemed to want, both physical and emotional.  So I did my best not to pressure him for information.  My antennae were always up, looking for clues that he was “okay,” and in general I was satisfied that he was.  But (and I’m embarrassed to admit this) he never allowed us to meet any of his friends other than the ones we already knew from the neighborhood.  When by happenstance we would meet a friend from school, I saw they were generally very successful kids, great grades, clean-cut.  So why would he not bring them home or let us into his world?

I could only conclude that for some reason he just needed space.  He needed independence.  Intuitively, I understood that.  He desperately needed to not be “mommy-ed.”  Somehow that was important to his burgeoning manhood, and for the most part I tried to grant him that freedom graciously.  Well, I like to tell myself I was being gracious.  The alternative would have been nothing but a fruitless four-year storm, so maybe it was just a case of sour grapes.

When it came time for him to go away to school, he surprised me with a suggestion that he “may not be wanting what we think he wants,” meaning he may want to stay home and go to community college.  I was surprised but supportive, and began looking into his options in that regard.  

In the end, however, I am proud to have been the one to tell him, “Honey, I really think you need to get out of here, away from me and dad.  We are the problem.”  I just sensed he was pulling away emotionally because he couldn’t get away physically.  We were always there, threatening to intrude where we weren’t wanted.  If he went away physically, maybe he would feel freer to come back emotionally.   

Right?  Right.  I know I was right.

And so he did go away, and he has been deliriously happy.  So happy at school.  And I am so happy to see him happy!

But so far, he hasn’t come back emotionally.  So far, he is still far away.  He is polite and kind and warm and friendly toward me.  He loves me and he tells me so.  But he keeps his world private, and that makes me sad.  

I miss him.  I miss feeling connected to him.  It seems so long ago now since I have felt connected.  

Our primary mode of communication these days is texting, although I use the word “communication” loosely because he doesn’t usually respond when I text him.  Such was the case last week.  

On Wednesday I texted him a picture of two individual crocks of rice pudding I had made that brought back a fond memory from his childhood.  No response.  But that's okay.  It was just a nostalgic whim.

On Saturday I knew he had traveled to Iowa for a hockey tournament, so I texted him to ask how the tournament was going.  No response.  Also okay.  He was busy with his tournament and teammates, after all.

On Sunday night I knew he should be home from the tournament, so I texted him to ask if he had made it home safely and how the tournament had gone.  No response.  Hmm.

On Monday it occurred to me to actually worry that he had, in fact, not made it home from the tournament safely, so I texted him again.  No response.  He could be in a hospital in Iowa.  Or dead.

Then it occurred to me that he may have lost his cell phone, so I Facebook messaged him.  No response.  Yep, definitely either dead or seriously damagedA hockey skate to the neck, a bad hit into the boards, a car accident, I couldn't be sure.  But he was doubtless languishing in an Iowan hospital.  Or languishing no more in an Iowan morgue. 

Finally, Monday night I got a text from him: “It was good.”  Meaning the tournament.  Which meant he did not lose or break his cell phone, he did get home safely, and yes, indeed, he had been just ignoring all my other texts.  And I still didn’t know what had happened at the tournament other than he didn’t die.

As it happened, I was in Philadelphia with Beatriz on Monday when I got that text, and she read the thread.  (Is it still called a thread when it’s that one-sided?)  She took my phone and texted Reed back, saying, “Little [poop emoticon] = you.”

I was horrified.  I would never say anything like that to any of my kids.  But she convinced me a) Reed would think it was funny, and b) he deserved it.  So I left it there for a day and a half.   Then horror got the better of me.  I let him know that I had not actually sent that, and I asked him if his feelings were hurt.   

As it turns out, Beatriz was right: he did think it was funny, and his feelings were not hurt. But he did out of the blue suddenly text me and say he might come home this weekend.  See?  He is a sweetie.

 I shared the story with Dom the other night and he said, “Oh Mom, my feelings would have been really hurt if I thought you had sent that to me!”  Which prompted me to seek even more reassurance from Reed that his feelings were not hurt.  He did respond right away with that reassurance, so I think he got the message (Text Mom!).  He really is a sweet and tenderhearted kid.  I’ve always known that.

Well, there is a point to all this!  I think God has many lessons for us in the love we feel for our children.

As it turns out, I had been just a little too busy for God that week.  Nothing was wrong; I had just neglected my time with Him.  I went to Philadelphia to see my sister and her family, I met Beatriz there, I saw my nephew and niece perform in their school musical, I saw my other niece and her new baby, my sister’s father-in-law was there.  I was also busy with my Bible study gals, and on and on it went.  I didn’t take time to enjoy God or remember His love for me.  

Further, I wasn’t even praying.  I wasn’t remembering Him at all.  

Little Miss Independent.  Off the grid.  On my own.  Enjoying His privileges, forgetting the relationship from whence those privileges arose.

But God, in His kindness, gave me Reed.   

My heart leaps when Reed texts me at all.  Any communication from him is cause for celebration.  Even when he is just telling me a need: Mom, I need more contacts.  Mom, my jeans are all too short.  Mom, I need rent money.  Mom, I would love boxing gloves for Christmas.  Even then, I am happy.  I just want to hear from him.  And even when I have been disappointed for a week that he hasn’t responded to my texts, when he finally does respond, I am happy.  All is forgiven!  I’m just glad he is okay.  

Because I love him, I love him, I just love him.  I celebrate his very existence, and I long to be in relationship with him.  I yearn for connection with him.

How much more does God long for connection with us?  Not that I dare paint God as “needy,” but He loves.  And He is joyous in communion with His children, just as I am joyous in communion with Reed, with all my children.  I am convinced that this is true.  

And so I was instructed by my precious Reed.  The same joy I find in Reed's communion with me, God also finds in my communion with Him.  It is not a duty I perform that I pray and sit with Him each day: it is a relationship. I find joy in Him, yes.  But!  But.  He also takes joy in me.  Unfathomable, but true.  My Father takes joy in me, just like I take joy in my Reed. 
Indeed, I do take joy in Reed.  I take joy in his very essence.  I celebrate everything that makes him unique.  I love him.  I just love him.   

And that’s the way God feels about me, in all my ridiculousness.  In all my frailties, my quirks, my shortcomings.  Throughout my history of failure, self-will, temper tantrums, mistakes, fitful spiritual enthusiasm and eventual, enigmatic, painfully slow spiritual growth, He loves me.  He just loves me. Just like I love Reed.  Jesus longs for me, just like I long for Reed.   

Nothing will discourage my love for Reed.  No amount of neglect on his part could ever frustrate my enthusiasm for him or my joyous celebration of his very being.   

How can it be that my God feels that same indefatigable love for me?  

Yet how could it not be?  How could it not be?  He is the one who created my love for Reed.  Is it possible that I could love my child more than He loves His children?  Obviously not.

I still have confidence that Reed will eventually get a little better at responding to text messages.  And in the meantime, maybe I'll focus on responding more quickly to God's, eh?

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