To the Universe and Back
My seven-year-old son is a bit of a mystery to me. I’m beginning to suspect that he always will be. He’s more like my dad--a man you could easily believe just stepped from the pages of a Wendell Berry novel—than either my husband or me. Like my dad, he’s quiet. He holds his cards close to his chest, preferring to take everything in and let very little out.
His first grade teacher calls him an “old soul.”
He loves music and is the only one in our family willing to dance around the kitchen with me while Pandora crackles from the computer. But he’s also a worrier, and recently told me that he’s decided not to be President after all because the President has "a lot of problems to solve." When he shows me his schoolwork topped with 100%s and glowing comments, he flashes a crooked grin but then drops his eyes, almost embarrassed. He is proud of himself and he’s eager for me to be proud of him too, but he’s unsure. His confidence is fragile, as if he’s afraid that something will sweep in and steal it away.
If anything, these last seven years with him have forced me to think outside my own personality—to learn to love outside my own personality. My husband and I try to meet each of our children where they are, to learn them, to receive who God has made them to be. We rejoice in their uniqueness and assure them that God has made them exactly who they are for His purposes. But the other night when I was tucking him into bed, my son asked me something that made me doubt all of my parenting to this point.
“Mommy, do you love me to the end of the universe?”
I was stunned. How could he not know? How could he not know that every time I looked at him I saw my father? How could he not know that I secretly preferred the strong, silent type—the personality he intrinsically possessed? How could he not know that I had dreams of him becoming that kind of steady, stable, loyal man that any mother would be proud of? How could he not know that I loved him?
But then I realized. This was not about whether I knew I loved him but whether he knew that I loved him. And if he needed to hear it again, I needed to say it again.
“Oh honey, I love you to the end of the universe and back again. I love you more than you know. I love you just because you exist—it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, I will always love you. No mistakes you make, no bad things you do can stop me from loving you.”
His lips slowly formed that signature lopsided smile, and he looked at me with blue eyes that seemed to beg me to confirm that what he was hearing was true. He sighed and simply said, “Thank you for telling me that.”
And then he rolled over and went to sleep.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that we talk about love a lot. When we’re young, we sing “Jesus Loves Me;” and when we grow up, we sport bumper stickers and wear t-shirts that say “God loves you!” For those of us who take love at face value, all these affirmations can easily sound a bit trite. We're bored with it. Yes, yes, I know already. God is love. God loves me. Can’t we move onto something more profound, even something more practical like five easy ways to disciple children?
But some of us… well, some of us are like my son. Some of us are still wrestling, still struggling to believe this simple truth: Jesus. Loves. Me. Not because of what I do for Him; not because of what I didn’t do. He simply loves me.
If life with my son has taught me anything, it’s that some of us need to hear this again and again. And if some of us need to hear it again and again, then the rest of us need to say it again and again. So to you--you with the lopsided grin and expectant eyes--let me say this: God loves you to the universe and back.