The following is a guest post by Rebecca Reynolds. In addition to being a gracious and thoughtful writer, Becca’s repertoire includes star-studded peep-o-ramas, circus peanut sculptures, and stunning portraits etched in Oreo cookie creme. You can visit her blog at Little Boot Liturgies.
Sometimes M struggles with “lifting” candy. We were expecting this, because orphanage living caters to the shrewd. It’s fairly common for parents of internationally-adopted children to find stashes of food stuffed in hiding places all around the house. Kids do this because they want to make sure they have something to eat later if they need it.
Mosie doesn’t hide regular food, but he does lift suckers. If I get occupied with some chore around the house, I will hear little feet thumping through the dining room, hear the kitchen stool scooting, and soon I will find a pile of paper wrappers and sticks lying on the counter. He knows this is off limits. He does it anyway.
I’m more concerned about his heart than a little extra sugar. Truth be told, he’s so cute, it’s difficult to make myself deal with such a small offense. However, since the trajectory of his heart is developing, I kneel down and show him the wrappers. I let him know I’m in on the sham.
Then, I will re-explain that he can have candy, but that he needs to ask Momma first; and we’ll slowly talk through the dialogue that should have happened in the first place. I’ll make sure he can repeat it, ask him to apologize, give him a big hug, and give him a chance to do it right. Then – don’t judge me – I’ll give him a sucker so he can enjoy it sans guilt.
This has been happening for several weeks now. During that time, I’ve intentionally kept the suckers where he could reach them. I want him to learn to resist them.
As our relationship has grown, I can tell that his dilemma has grown as well. At first, when he was feeling guilty, he would avert his eyes when I walked in the room. He would hang his head. His face would flush.
Then, something new began:
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. (Enter little feet.) “Hello, Momma!” One hand behind the back, shifting from foot to foot.
“Hello, M. What are you doing?”
“Hello, Momma.” (Forced smile. Hand still behind back. Still shifting foot to foot.)
I know he has a sucker in the hand. I can feel the tension within him. He wants closeness with me. He wants the candy. He wants both.
My little son waits there with all the pain I feel when I want both. “Hello, God. I want You. But what I’m protecting from You tastes sweet, too.” So I stand at the fork in the road, with my hand behind my back (as if flesh could shelter idols from the All-seeing), teasing out the advantages and disadvantages of communion.
Suddenly, I see in those two little eyes an appeal. Not for candy, but for understanding. “Can you feel how hard this choice is, Momma? This awful dilemma? I want this thing. And I want to be free of it.”
We are the same, he and I.
So I put my hand behind my own back, and I look into his eyes. I turn around, showing him my hand, and that I know what he hides.
His mouth flies open. He is astonished. He is loved despite the worst. Relieved and undone, he seems not to know whether to laugh or cry. What a terrible, wonderful thing to be understood!
Quickly, I scoop him up, and I kiss him until he realizes that being known is a refuge in times like these. Because by bringing me the dilemma, he did choose me — before he even realized he had made a choice at all.
He brought me his weakness, and I gave him sonship. Also, I gave him candy.
“All of life is repentance, and repentance increases joy. It’s not traumatic; it’s joyful and it’s healing.” Tim Keller
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)