“Well, My love is over, it’s underneath.
It’s inside, it’s in between…
I’m there through your heartache.
I’m there in the storm…
I don’t care where you fall, where you have been.
I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends.”
~Over and Underneath, Tenth Avenue North
She’s in her world, sprinting circles through the house. Runthroughkitchen-intolivingroom-turnonlight-crashintochair-racethroughdiningroom-intokitchenagain. It’s one of her patterns, and if you try to block her or break the cycle, you will go down. Because, in her mind, the course simply must be completed.
“Rhema lost her pants, Mommy!” Hope belly-laughs as a bare bottom whizzes past us.
I gather her clothes and call to her “Pants on.” I make several attempts – in vain – to stop her in the kitchen. She would gladly sacrifice an arm – pulled right out of the socket – rather than break the pattern. After many laps around the house, my frustration grows. She doesn’t listen to a word I say.
The next time around I catch her and we struggle on the floor in the kitchen. To say she is strong is an understatement. My in-shape, airborne Army husband has a very hard time “containing” Rhema. And when she is determined, distressed or afraid, her strength increases.
She wraps her legs around my legs and trips me. She blocks my hands with her hands and drives her head into my stomach. It’s WrestleMania in my kitchen, and my 7-year-old is whipping me. “Pants on, pants on,” I say over and over. Fifteen minutes of striving – it’s a battle for control now – and finally I am able to work the pants up her legs. She is red hot and angry. She instantly yanks off her clothes and blindly rushes to the living room to run her pattern.
It takes all of my physical strength and energy to get her upstairs to her room, and she fights me the whole way. She curls into a rigid ball on the floor and weeps. I close her door and sit on the other side, broken-hearted and wounded, I catch my breath, blink back hot tears of my own.
What do I do? About the non-compliance, the obsessive-compulsive behavior? The fact that she’s getting bigger, stronger – I’m losing my ability to control her. Her pants lay at the bottom of the stairs, testifying to my failure. My deepest fear looms large in front of me — that I won’t be able to keep her with me, that she’ll have to go to residential program because I can’t take care of her.
God, you gave her to me. Help me. Please help me know how to love her and reach her and parent her. Please!
I remember how Jacob wrestled with God. Jacob fought, held on all night, and said “I will not let go until you bless me.” (Gen. 32:26)
Just don’t let go. No matter how long it takes, just don’t let go.
And suddenly I know what to do.
I rub calm into her back, the child I was just wrestling. She’s so tight, so lost and afraid.
Rhema, Rhema. Mommy loves you, Rhema.
Rhema, Rhema. Daddy loves you, Rhema.
Rhema, Rhema. Jesus loves you, Rhema.
It’s the made-up song I sang when she was running circles in my womb, hoping she’d settle. I’d sing her that, and ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.’ I like to think she remembers me singing those words to her before she was born.
I imagine God singing over me as I sing over her, quieting us with His love. Only His song is how He never lets go. How we run our desperate patterns, away, away from Him, refusing to hear, and yet He pursues us. How we thrash, flail and fight Him and He loves us anyway. I’ve come to know that place – on my face, tears on the floor – is the best place to be. Because there His song of grace reaches me.
Her crying turns to babbling; she’s telling me all about it.
Finally she sits up, crawls over to one of the many puzzles on her floor. Feverishly she works the pieces, grunting, sniffling, humming, singing now, too. I come close, and slowly, gently she lets me in. I hand her a puzzle piece – she already knows without looking where it goes. I realize that she has built a stack of puzzles, each one completed on top of another. My foot knocks a few pieces out of place, and she calmly puts them back, not so frantic anymore.
When she’s done, I raise my hand for a high five. She never smacks a high five.
Instead she lays her hand against mine.
Thank you, Lord.
She looks down, but a secret smile fills her face.
There. There’s my girl.
Pants on, Rhema?
She stands above me and as I hold out the pants near her feet, she rests her hands on my head. She does it for balance, I’m sure, but it feels like she’s blessing me.