Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down, sobbing uncontrollably, at the daunting new day ahead.
Typically, this behavior would receive a more tough love approach as I was running behind myself and did not have time for morning coddling. However, due to my own breakdown just the night before, I guess I was feeling a bit more empathetic toward my youngest son. I simply sat with him in that dimly lit hallway. I rubbed his bare back. I told him it would be okay. I assured him he had plenty of time even though he really didn’t. But what is time anyway? We are all late now and then. Sometimes it is best to just lean into the lateness and let it be what it is.
As I sat with my child, my baby, who is daily growing into a young man, I thought of the events of the night before. The bitter tears I cried due to a life situation over which I have absolutely no control. Instead of lying on the floor (where I very possibly might not get up), I lay in the comfort of my bed. I could not even formulate the words to pray, so I simply said the name Jesus, over and over again. Feeling absolutely at the end of myself, I felt a comfort I cannot describe descending upon my weary soul. A comfort I have felt in times past when sitting on the bathroom floor, tears flooding down my face, feeling hopeless due to life problems that tend to creep up from time to time. A season of loneliness. An insurmountable mountain that there is absolutely no way I can climb. But God.
In the same way my Heavenly Father comforted me just the evening before, I sat with my son early this morning. I could not take away the worry he felt. The anxiety that was crowding the edges of his mind. The fear of being late, not getting it right, missing out on assignments, and relationships—just the overwhelming monotony of being an 11-year-old kid in a day when kids are faced with way more adult issues than my generation was at that age.
Knowing I could not remove the obstacles in his life, the Goliaths we all face, I simply sat with him. I whispered words of assurance. I rubbed his back. I ran my fingers through his freshly cut, little boy hair. I simply sat with him in the pain, the confusion, the upset, the discomfort. Until I sensed he was ready. And then I gently said these words, “Are you ready to get up now?”
My son gingerly shook his head. He pushed himself off the floor and jetted off to his room a new man, ready to take on a new day. I forced myself into that messy pre-pubescent room and extracted a hug. A big, long, close, meaningful hug that I do not get near enough of these days without brute force. It was soul food for both of us. Mostly for me. But I think he needed it too.
“Are you ready to get up now?” Those words rang in my mind the remainder of the morning. They sang out to me on the way to work as I prayed my daily prayer for strength and peace to get through yet another day. I imagined Jesus sitting with me the night before. Gently stroking my hair, rubbing my back, whispering assurances . . . It will be okay. This is just a chapter, not the whole book. I will walk you through this valley, we will make it to the other side. You’ll see.
Did Jesus take away the seemingly insurmountable issues I was facing at that moment? No, He did not. Yet, He sat with me in the pain. He reminded me that He, too, knew the pain of betrayal, abandonment, rejection, and intense emotional trauma. He called out to His Father to take away the pain, but His Father, in His immense, divine wisdom, did not take away the circumstances. Nor did He remove Himself from the pain felt by His only son. I believe God wept just as bitterly and intensely as His son did in the Garden of Gethsemane just the evening before when the intensity of his tears were like “drops of blood.”
As parents, we long to take away the pain of our children. We would give anything to remove the speed bumps in life our kids will inevitably come up against. But we know we can’t. We know that will simply hinder their maturity, keeping them from growing, learning, accepting, and maneuvering their way toward adulthood. Yet, we sit with them in the pain. We continually remind them that this too shall pass. We never give up on them and their ability to rise above a situation that is so minor compared to the capacity for strength and perseverance our children have come to know.
And when we sense those salty fresh tears are near the end and the resolve has once again found its way back to the heart of our most treasured loved ones, we gently ask, “Are you ready to get up now?” And slowly, sadly, gingerly, but with a new spark in their eyes and resolve in their hearts, we help them up off the floor. We dust them off, give them a tough love smile with a tender shot of “You got this!” and walk with them past the threshold of pain and into the breaking dawn of a new day, a new season, a new chapter, a new life.
It starts with sitting with them in the pain and ends with “Are you ready to get up now?” These tender, mind-melting, heartwrenching, bond-inducing moments with our children—they may gradually fade away until they rarely exist at all. But even as adults, we still need our parents to be there and know that magical moment only a parent can know when it is time to ask those seven life-changing words, “Are you ready to get up now?”