A little something different on the blog today. Last week I wrote an article for the Christian counseling practice I work for, but since I have the rights to the article's content I thought I would post it here as well. Here's the short article; a little reading for a Monday.
Freshly back to work from maternity leave with my first child, it’s predictable that the thoughts I’m mulling around lately come from lessons I’m learning from the very small among us. I’m not the first mother to see God and His love in a clearer light after having a child, and I won’t be the last. I imagine that the unfolding of this understanding will continue throughout a lifetime of motherhood, and I look forward to how it is that I might be changed by these new angles.
The primary picture God uses to help us understand our relationship to Him is the parent-child relationship. So when my infant cried his very first tear, I responded instinctively to him as his parent, but my heart also was instinctively impacted by seeing the similarity of how it is that God relates to me in my tears. Infants cry from their first moments after birth, but they do not produce actual tears until about a month into life, as their tear ducts take time yet to form. So the first time that a big, wet tear rolled down my baby’s face, I noticed. But to say I just noticed is an understatement; I remember stopping in my tracks and almost in slow-motion turning my hand over to catch the tear in my palm. I was cut to core by the sight of that little tear, by the feel of its wetness dropping into my hand.
In that moment Psalm 56:8 sprang to my mind, “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” In that moment, so many different occasions of my own tears flooded my mind and I realized—God noticed. Each time. Each tear. I knew that the Bible taught that, but the emotion behind the noticing—the love behind the noticing—became so much clearer to me now that I am a parent to my little boy.
In my work as a counselor, I see what I do as part of joining God in the work He’s doing in the world. So when I sit in my therapist chair where I am witness to many tears, I try to represent to my clients God’s heart in the matter. I take notice of each tear, and with my presence I hope to say, “I see your pain, and it matters,” because that’s how God treats us. Of course a therapist is limited; we can’t see or know every time you cry or hurt but what we try to be for our clients one hour a week in our office is a small, imperfect slice of what God is to us all the time. Attentive. Seeing. Knowing. Compassionate.
Some people see therapy as a waste of time, “Why should I sit around and cry about my problems?” or as something to fear, “I’m afraid I will break down and cry.” While none of us particularly enjoy sitting with our pain, it’s a faulty cultural message we’ve received that tears should be hidden, brushed aside, or simply pushed past. The God who made us cares so intimately about our pain that He says in poetical language that it’s like He collects each of our tears in a bottle. I learn from God that my pain and your pain, my experience and your experience, it matters. He knows and notices and feels for us. Let’s let ourselves be seen, allow our tears to be noticed, and in so doing experience the love and compassion of God—the one who notices, always.