When I was growing up, I really didn’t understand who God was supposed to be. In my mind, He was a far-off cosmic phenomenon that I could wish upon, like a shooting star. At times, He seemed alternately indifferent to and the cause of my struggles.
As a teenager and young adult, I made a lot of mistakes and explored paths down which I never should have ventured. When I heard the phrase “God still loves you”, it honestly meant nothing to me. Many times, I thought, “So what?” I just didn’t get why that was such a big deal.
After all, even if that was the case, I still struggled. I still had setbacks. I still had bad things happen to me.
So how was His love for me relevant?
When I was 21, I was lost. I honestly didn’t know what I was doing with my life and felt a lot of shame and confusion about the choices I was making. For the first time, I prayed with real intent. I prayed because I knew if God was real, I figured He was my last shot to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I didn’t pray for a sign or anything like that. I just prayed like I would talk to a friend, hoping He really would hear me and show me the way.
He absolutely did, and a week after my husband and I were married, I got baptized.
That experience helped me understand God so deeply when I had been blind before – but after becoming a mother, there’s so much about Him that suddenly made way more sense.
Before I was a mother, I could never understand His love for me as His daughter. If I remember that He is my literal Father in Heaven, a few profound truths leap out about his love for me and what that really means.
I love learning about my son and his preferences. For instance, I know that he loves his squirrel more than any other stuffed animal (hence the reason we have four of them). His favorite toys are by far his rubber bath toys. He has a weird preference for single, dark blue Mega Blocks, for whatever reason.
As a mother, I love getting to know him because I love him. I love getting to see him grow into the person he’s going to become. Because I know him, I’m also better able to comfort, guide, and teach him.
In the same way, I know God is interested in us as individuals. He’s interested in the choices we make and all the things we discover. I’m sure that in the same way I’m delighted when I watch my son discover something new (like the ducks at the park), Heavenly Father delights in us discovering new things about life.
There’s not much that can compare to the joy of watching A learn something for the first time.
Just today, he was playing in his room and I set him in his toddler-sized rocking chair. Before, he’d squirm around and fall out into my arms when he was ready to be done. This morning, he scooted himself forward gently sat himself on the floor.
As I clapped and cheered him on, it occurred to me that Heavenly Father must feel the same way in our every success. In the times that we are kind to someone who is rude to us, or that we choose to tell the truth, or even when we turn to Him to admit our faults and ask for help to overcome them, He must be clapping and cheering for us, too.
A has a fascination with a lot of things he shouldn’t have. For instance, the cat’s food, the cat’s water, the litter box, the toilet, my cleaning supplies, outlets, pens… Really, the list could go on and on.
He doesn’t yet understand the danger of them yet, so I have to help keep him safe.
Unsurprisingly, my efforts rarely make him happy. He cries because what he’s trying to play with looks like so much fun and he doesn’t understand why I’m making him unhappy.
Similarly, God sees dangers we don’t know about or understand. Sometimes these dangers are outlined to us in the form of commandments. Sometimes, we get impressions from the Holy Ghost that help keep us safe. You know those mornings when you just can’t get out the door when you’d planned? I’d like to think that’s divine intervention protecting us from an unseen danger.
Because He loves us, he gives us limits and boundaries to keep us safe and happy.
This brings me back to when I started sleep training the A.
The first night was the hardest. I checked on him and comforted him after 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, then every 10 minutes thereafter. It took between an hour to an hour and a half for him to get to sleep.
Sleep training coincided with a really trying time in our lives, and as I stood outside the door listening to him and keeping my eye on the timer, it occurred to me that Heavenly Father does this, too.
Sometimes He is quiet in our lives as he waits for us to figure out how to do something ourselves. In my case, it was learning to be patient and how to forgive even when the offender isn’t sorry
In a way, I realized I was teaching A some of his first lessons on faith: That even though I may be away from him for a moment, I’ll return in the light of the morning with open arms. As our Father, God promises this same thing.
Did you know labor hurts? I know, groundbreaking.
Because I had planned a home birth, I spent 23 hours in labor sans epidural. My contractions for the majority of that time were two minutes apart – from the get-go. At 23 hours in, I was barely dilated, and my midwife made the call that we should head to the hospital because no amount of walking, rocking, or bouncing was getting me going.
When I got to the hospital, I thought I might just die before they got me an epidural. They had so many questions to ask. (like, who do you want in the room? By that time, you could have brought a whole marching band in and I don’t think I’d have noticed. Just get me the epidural!)
I cried when they told me they needed to do a C-section. I was absolutely terrified. As they wheeled me to the operating room, I shook all over. And one thing I didn’t know about C-sections before going in is that even though you can’t feel the pain of the surgery, you can still feel the surgeons tugging at you. It felt surreal, like I’d been abducted by aliens.
When I heard his cry for the first time, I was happy he was safe, but when they asked if I wanted to hold him I very firmly said no. I was so scared and I didn’t want him to meet me under those circumstances, so he went to my husband instead. I started hyperventilating when they started stitching me up, because all of a sudden I was very aware I was currently undergoing surgery – while awake. Just sayin’.
They upped my sedation because I was freaking out, and the next thing I remember is waking up in recovery. The nurse was gently laying A on my chest, and even after all I’d been through, I cried because my heart felt like it was going to burst with love for him. My first thought was, “I love you. You were worth every minute and I’d do it all again if I had to.”
As hard as labor was, it had to be one billionth (or less) as excruciating as Gethsemane was. After all, Jesus Christ felt not only my labor, but all other labors, and every other pain and sorrow every single person had or will have to face. When we turn to him and ask for His help, I know the words he must want to say are, “I love you. You were worth every minute and I’d do it all again if I had to.”
Heavenly Father is perfect. His love is perfect. The ways in which he loves us are perfect. If you consider that he does all of these things perfectly, you know he cannot fail.
When I look at His love from this perspective, I am truly blown away and humbled. I’m so grateful to have a new understanding of His love for me.