I read this post a while ago from a popular blogger. Lots of people have probably read it. In it, she said something like, I want my kids to know that goodness and love are stronger when they come from a sense of freedom and not of obligation. Not that exactly. Something like that. Anyways- when I read it, I kept thinking about it. Not the post, mostly just that sentence. I thought about it a lot, because this girl has really different opinions than I do on a lot of things. But this, I kind of understood. I kind of feel like that sometimes, like, I should be doing more for others, loving them more, helping them more...but I am so tired. I have my own family. And sometimes I do those things, and sometimes I don't- but no matter what, I always feel this obligation. And obligation to serve and help and love, but sometimes it just feels exhausting. It feels forced.
Jax has been scared at night, so after McKay and I have already gone to sleep, he quietly walks into our bedroom and climbs into bed with us. It's usually at about three. It started happening right when Jonah started sleeping through the night, so it was kind of a bummer. But he cuddles up to me, and I hold him and lay there- sleeping on-and-off until the morning because our bed is too small, and then I get up. Sometimes I can't fall asleep, so I lay next to him and pull his hand right to my mouth and I kiss it until I'm tired and can fall asleep. There have been times during the night that he's wet the bed. Wet the bed in the middle of the night and I stand up and feel like I could almost fall down- I am so tired. But I walk to his room and pull his pajamas off him to replace with something warm and dry. I wash his legs first so he's comfortable. And then I do the same thing to his bed. Then I pick him up and lay him down and I get in there next to him and hold him. I tell him it's okay. It's okay to have accidents. Mom had accidents when she was little. And I wait until he falls asleep and then I go back to bed.
Jonah isn't a cuddler. He's never been one. When he was a newborn, he would fall asleep pressed up against me with his head tipped back, cradled in my hands. I would kiss his cheeks and walk in bouncy circles in my room until he fell asleep. When he gets hurt or sad or tired, he's a frustrated, grumpy, non-cuddler. He arches his back and tenses his body and throws a fit in my arms. If I put him on the ground, he's even more sad- so I hold him while he arches and pushes away from me. We bounce, we point at things and we walk around the house until he feels better.
It's easy for me to love my kids. To be tired, frustrated, late-to-something, and I still love them. They can dump my favorite perfume down the sink, throw a fit in the store, or pee in my hair (all those have happened) ...and I'll love them still. I'll bathe them still. I'll dress them and hold them and read to them still. I guess it's an obligation- I'm their mom. But I want to. I don't have to bathe them if I don't want to. I don't have to hug them or kiss them I guess. But I always will. And it's strong because I want to love them. Loving them is my purpose. I guess it doesn't get much stronger than that.
I think when we're talking about love or goodness as an obligation or a freedom, it makes them verbs. It implies that there comes action with them. Something with them. Some manifestation of love or goodness. That's how I take it. And yes, it's hard for me to call up someone from church who I don't know and schedule a day to bring them dinner if they need it. That's an obligation to me. It feels like something I don't want to do, but I should. It would be easier to call my pregnant best friend and tell her I'm bringing her dinner just because I want to. That's my freedom and behind it there would be a greater sense of fun and spontaneity and probably love. I would do it just because. Because I love her. There's a difference between the two. There's a line.
That difference to me is a total natural feeling. We were born with it. Born with an obvious distinction in our minds of things we want to do and things we don't. People we want to love and people we don't want to love. Goodness we want to share, and goodness we don't. Of course we have random moments of goodness, random moments of love. We help a stranger find the pudding at a grocery store. We hand two dollar bills to a homeless person on a corner. We let a new mom with a crying newborn cut us in line. Those are random things. We do them spontaneously and freely and usually afterwards we feel a little more connected to someone we didn't know. A little more connected to the world. A little like we are all in this together. But that's the thing, we are.
We're here to live and to progress. To be better, to love better, to treat each other better and serve each other and share our goodness. better. It's not always easy. We don't always want to. There are other things that come first sometimes. Other things that just rank higher than doing something or loving a person we don't even know- or even a person we don't feel deserves it- or maybe a person we don't feel needs it. There's an obvious distinction between love and goodness we want to share and love and goodness we feel obligated to. I think everyone feels that. I feel that. But what I also feel is that feeling can be overcome. I think that's what this life is about. We're here to progress and grow and become more like Christ. He loved everyone. I don't think He felt obligated. I think He yearned for it. He constantly looked for people to teach and heal and bless. His entire life was a manifestation of the love He had for us.
When my boys are 10 and 12 years old, and they are asked to sing Christmas carols at a nursing home, they probably won't want to. That is fine. I wouldn't want to either. But I think that they and I can learn to feel as strongly about the importance of that as we would about something we freely chose to do. There is a distinction. But my goal as a mom is to take that line of distinction they feel and help them make it disappear. And that I think is when goodness and love will become the most powerful- when it no longer comes from a distinction they make, but instead is just who they are.