Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Older Boys and Shotguns

I was burrowed down deep, under pink monkey sheets with Sugs. It was late and dark, her lips moving against my cheek.

"Mama, I like boys," she said.

"You do?" I asked, stalling for time. I was simultaneously praying that I wouldn't overreact, and wishing Real Gil were here to handle this before my inevitable overreaction. Then, I remembered he's the father; there'd be little help from Mr. Protective Himself.

Images of my own parents flitted across my memory, Dad in a bathrobe with a shotgun (no joke) and Mom with her finger pointed at the boy's chest while she made her seat-belt-and-slow-driving demands. Suddenly, their actions seemed so reasonable, nothing drastic about it all.

But I digress... Sugs brought me back to present-day with her forthright words.

"Yes, I like boys, especially older boys," she clarified.

I can envision the nunnery in my mind's eye, a beautiful stone lodge with long capes and virtuous women. Sugs is among them, with the word CLOISTERED stamped on her forehead...

I just listen for a while as she lists boys she likes - the boy from Nanny McPhee, the neighbor boy, some boys from church, her papa.

It's something we've observed in our four-year old long before this late-night conversation - a need to be noticed and seen by boys. Can this really start at the age of four? My heart quakes for her inevitable heartbreaks, if this is the ultimate goal.

"Those boys are nice, Sugs," I finally say. "I understand what you like about boys. But can I tell you a secret? One that might help you a lot in your life?"

The lure of a secret whispered in the dark brings her nose to nose with me. We giggle in the glow of her pink nightlight and then, I whisper: "No boy, not even the fairytale prince, can satisfy you completely, make you live happily ever after."

This does not fit into her nighttime daydreams. She looks at me like I'm the party pooper, this out-of-touch mama invading her space.

"I married the prince," I insist. "And I love him more every day, but even still, Papa can't meet my every need; he isn't supposed to. Then, there wouldn't be a need for Jesus."

I leave it there, my flat unromantic truth, as cozy in this setting as a thorn in the flannel sheets.

"But, boys are great," she adds. "And Jesus likes 'em too."

I laugh with her and I agree.

Boys are great. Romance is not to be dismissed.

But the best kind of romance I have found in my life is the kind that gives with no thought to receiving, the kind that is inspired by Christ. When He meets my needs for encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship, tenderness and compassion (Phil. 2:1), then I am free to love others selflessly, "being one in spirit and purpose."

So, I pray for my marriage, and I pray for this daughter of mine. Might she find more than Leah did...

Leah, the uglier, older bride with "weak eyes," the one who went along with her father's deception and tricked her way into marriage. I know she thought she could sway Jacob, persuade him to love her over time. Even if her sister was younger and prettier, Leah still hoped for a Valentine's Day kind of love. After giving birth to first one, then two, and finally six boys, Leah would hopefully proclaim, "Surely my husband will love me now," and "Now at last my husband will become attached to me..." After one childbirth episode, perhaps in a moment of postpartum depression when she realizes there is no hope, she admits "because the Lord knows I am not loved, he gave me this one too."

Not exactly the words I'd put on my Valentine's cards. Or in the baby book.

Leah was a real Fertile Myrtle, birthing babies and swinging her hopes from children to husband with each swing of her postpartum emotions. By her sixth child, Leah seems a bit more realistic, knowing that Jacob might never love her, but still, she insists that "this time, my husband will treat me with honor."

I'm not sure she ever predicted correctly. When the family walked into a dangerous confrontation, Jacob planted Leah and her children in harm's way first, while Rachel - the wife who was "lovely in form and beautiful" - walked at the very end of the parade, farthest from potential violence.

Tragic story, I know, but I relate to Leah in many more ways than I can relate to Rachel. Pinning all of my hopes, dreams, and heart on a man (even my beloved Real Gil) - it's always fraught with disappointment. Not because of the man, but because they were never intended to satisfy all of my hopes and dreams!

Then, if I can't find soul-satisfying completion in Real Gil, I know there have been times where I swing my attention, hopes, and dreams onto my children. What a tragic set-up for failure I give my children in these moments! If Real Gil can't meet my heart-needs, do I really think a three-year old can?

The idols I've been tempted to worship are not evil - they are treasures from God above. They are to be loved, cherished, and honored, but they are always to point me back to Him. Like the idols from the long-ago Elijah story, these idols cannot fulfill my deepest longing. No matter the frantic demands we make nor the volume with which we demand them, the answer will always be disappointing, like it was back then: "there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention." (1 Kings 18:29)

God has my heart, which liberates me to love this family of mine. They do not complete me, but they are delightful indeed. It is so much more liberating and rewarding to love from this perspective.

I pray this for Sugs too. That she will find true love in the Only Person who can give it perfectly.

And as a true Anne of Green Gables fan, if she is still inclined, I am praying that she finds a delightful boy someday - even an older one! - that walks the journey with her. A man that does not have to complete her, just a man that makes the makes the walk more delightful.

Resting in His Perfect Love, & the Gift of Loving Others that He Gives,


Summerlyn said...

Oh, Karen, this is good stuff!

Karen said...

Many thanks, my dear Sum. Will we really survive those dating years?

Summerlyn said...

This is an unusual request, but I'm teaching my eighth-grade students about semi-colons and dashes, and I would love to reprint this post for them to read as a "real-life" example of how to use grammar. Your punctuation really enhances your writing, and I want them to be able to model this skill. What do you say? Do I have permission from the author? (Because I already printed this out, with the words: "Used with permission from the author" at the bottom of the page.) =)

Karen said...

Sum, anytime you want to use the word "Author" and my name in the same sentence, I almost wet my pants. Scary, or funny, I'm not sure. But you are welcome to use whatever you find useful around these parts! :)

Ann Kroeker said...

You are such a great mom! We need to tell them the truth, gently, a little at a time...because the world will tell them about the magic of romance, the world will tell stories of Prince Charming and perpetuate the myth of the perfect match and all that. So if we tell them the truth in small doses, we may keep them from putting unrealistic expectations on some young man in the future.

It helps us process our disappointments so much healthier when people let us down, as they inevitably will.

You are teaching her (and reminding us) through the beauty and strength of story.