Have you ever cried so hard it hurts? I’m talking about that deep burn in your throat that reaches all the way to your heart and back, only finding escape from the flames via hot, molten tears. That was me, sitting in my shower, somehow enjoying the emotion, yet begging it to simmer down before I hyperventilated. The last thing I needed was my husband to run into the bathroom, following an echoing thump, and find me slumped naked in the billowing steam. So, I tried to qualm my cries, yet the overflow of emotion erupted again, a fresh cascade of tears across my already wet face.
We had recently gone to a child’s birthday party, and I guess that’s where the story of tears started. My daughters were excited to see an old friend, and even opted to miss dance and voice lessons for the occasion. We had shopped excitedly for a present, each child contributing to the basket before making a final selection. They had chosen the outfits they would wear, and had asked me each and every day leading up to the event, “how much longer until the party?”
So, what happened?!
We had arrived to the gathering a little after its commencement, and already swarms of girls and boys bolted along the sandy beachfront. The birthday girl came running towards my oldest, screeching her name with excitement, enveloping her in a hug.
And my girl stood there awkwardly stiff, having trouble accepting the embrace. I heard Stephanie Tanner in my head proclaim, “how rude!”
Our awkward entrance continued. I looked around at my girls standing on the periphery of the group, looking shy, uncertain, and uncomfortable.
I encouraged them to “go and play.”
Yet, they kept coming back, and sitting on the outskirts, as if unsure of exactly how to go play. It didn’t make sense. These were their friends, and sure there were lots of other children they didn’t know, but my childhood wallflower self silently screamed, “go, be a part of the group!”
Yep, I had been that awkward kid in school, unsure how to act in social settings, sitting on the outside looking in. I had always done better one on one, a single bestie, and that trend had followed me my whole life.
“It’s Covid,” I thought.
Over a year of telling your children to stay away from other kids had surely stunted their social growth I hypothesized, and while I’m sure that’s true, it didn’t explain the fact that my tween had refused to bring her swimsuit, refused to wear shorts, and I had to buy her a baseball cap just to keep her from wearing a winter boggin pulled down over her head. Was that just a phase? Y’all, parenting is hard.
She had headphones in her ears, so she wouldn’t have to listen to the voices of others, and sunglasses because the sun hurt her vampire eyes. I’m sure it had nothing to do with being holed up in her dark room most of the time (insert tired mommy sigh).
I texted my spouse, “our kids have no idea how to act in a large group.”
I was questioning my own parenting skills, imagining all the ways I was messing up my kiddos, and trying not to worry I might be creating an ax murderer. Just kidding. Kinda.
My husband quickly replied, “uhhh, neither do their parents.”
Oh Lord, my husband and I were closet introverts. We loved people, and even flourished in one on one relationships, but put us in a group setting, and our left eye started to twitch. We hated crowds and avoided going places on weekends like the plague. We were happy to sit at home, and neither of us had the desire to go out with friends to blow off steam. We liked the bed, dinner and a movie, quiet time, and no expectations. His words made sense.
But still, I worried about my babies.
And that’s what I talked to God about in the shower. I handed Him my worries and my babies, listening to the counsel of the Holy Spirit. At some point in our conversation He brought me a vision of a flower in a field. Like the sunflowers we had grown last year, this flower tilted its head towards the light, and the light shown on its face, giving it new life.
The sun set and darkness surrounded the solitary plant. From above came a thermal blanket, like the kind a gardener would use to protect his prize winning roses from a spring frost. I knew at that moment, that was how God covered me and my family.
Each flower in His garden was unique, each created and cultivated to be its own creation, for His glory and kingdom purposes. His light illuminated and fed each one as it turned its face to Him, and He protected them from dark and cold places.
I felt the Lord speak to me, “nothing is by accident. I created each of your children according to my giftings. Nothing can take away from that. Nor does it need to be.”
I recognized that perhaps my children were different than the average child. Each one had nuances, sensitivities, or gifts that made them unique. I had grown up feeling like a square peg, longing to fit into a world I couldn’t seem to become comfortable being a part of. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized God created me square, with a square hole in mind for me. After all, squares make the best block for building God’s Kingdom. I wanted my girls to feel alive and beautiful in their uniqueness, and I realized that started with me not expecting them to fit into standard social norms. They were created for more than that. I didn’t need to worry so much as trust. And while there was nothing wrong with noticing peculiarities, or even learning more about those particular social styles, making a diagnosis or treatment plan if necessary, the bottom line was they were beautiful flowers in God’s garden, perfect in their specific design. Even if that made group events a little cringe worthy.
So, why did I cry? Gratitude, I suppose. What the world calls wounded, God calls blessed. What society would view as imperfect, He sets apart. And best of all, His light and love never fail. His covering persists, through every season, even the ones of drought and doubt. I’m still growing. My girls are too. I suppose, sometimes it’s the tears of gratefulness and joy that water the soil best.