Sitting on the worn futon in the back of our church, my eyes fluttered as I watched my one-year-old toddle around. While trying to listen to the sermon, I reflected on the rough time we experienced the night before. But when I looked beyond that single night, I saw a love so all-encompassing it carried me through the dark.
That night, bedtime was hours long. Following a late-afternoon floor nap, my four-year-old was so wound up that he met every one of our requests with a scream. His noisiness woke up the one-year-old, who took another half-hour to settle back down. That evening’s events obliterated any chance for a Saturday at-home date night for my husband and me.
In the middle of the night, teething pains awoke my younger child, eliciting screams. A few hours later, my older child roamed the halls, sleepwalking. I comforted the baby in my arms; my husband guided our older son back to bed. Between the two of us, we got perhaps enough sleep for one person.
Yet despite the lingering chaos, I gazed at my younger son the following morning with fondness. My love for him somehow exceeded the energy I gave to him. While his need for me sometimes feels like more than I have to give, it never is. If I reach deep enough, there’s always just a little more to find.
If we love our children this much, how much more does God love us? Even the most experienced of us are mere children when it comes to the divine. Our power and perspective are so limited.
In the long nights of the soul, crying with our arms stretched out, God is pacing the floor like a new mother. When we need reassurance we’re not alone, God is rubbing our metaphorical backs. When the aching of the world tugs at us like new teeth, God’s loving hands cradle our heads. As we sleepwalk through life, God guides us back to where we need to be.
Just like we welcome our children into our arms, our beds, our lives, God welcomes us into a beautiful creation. On those days sanctuary seems so foreign, God invites us into a safe space where we are welcomed just the way we are.
Parenting takes so much out of us and only love can fill us back up. Just as our children come to us, let us come to God like little children, open and willing to be loved.
In the back of our church, I felt my love for my son and God’s love for us wash over me. I was still so tired but yet found peace. Sometimes those long nights lead to joy even when we least expect it.