Henry and I had a heart to heart last night. We do that. He’s a sensitive guy, a sweet soul. He feels everything so deeply, so authentically…and sometimes he’s a the drama king of the place. He’s surely my son.
Last night he didn’t feel well. He came to me, put his arm around my neck and sat down on my lap. At 9, his lanky body falls awkward on my lap. It won’t be long before he is as tall I am. I can see that train a-comin.
He was worried. He said, “Remember last year when I confessed that thing to you?” I told him I wasn’t sure and asked him to relate to me the thing he confessed. He was reluctant. He was embarrassed. “I can’t remember, sweetie…when you confess things to me I let them go, I don’t hold on to them. You’re forgiven and I love you. If you’re struggling with that again you’ll have to remind me of what your struggling with…” He nodded and told me again, in hushed tones, his confession and then I did remember. “Do you need to hear forgiveness for this again?” He nodded, yes. “Are you worried that you are struggling with it again?” He nodded again and cried.
I told him, sincerely, that we all struggle and that we often struggle over and over with the same thing because it gives us something when we are in need, when we’re feeling bad, when we feel out of control, it gives us something we think we need. It’s “sinful” to turn to this thing instead of God and still, we’re forgiven each and every time we do that the moment we ask and turn away from it. I told him that he is forgiven and that he is loved, always and forever. I told him that I struggle too. “You know when I get mad, when I lose my temper? Do you think that’s the right way for me to handle it?” He shook his head. “Do I ask for your forgiveness when I blow my top?” He said, “Yeah.” and I said, “Do you give it to me? Do you still love me?” He said that of course he does and he loves me all the time.
I admit, I needed to hear that as I was at that moment, feeling cranky. It’d been a long night. I didn’t tell him this but there are an awful lot of moments when I don’t feel lovable, moments when I feel like all I’m doing is screwing up my kids. I try not to seek it out from my kids, they’re not my personal affirmation machines, but I’ll tell ya, when they offer it up, I take it in. I get all Luke 2:19 and “treasure it up” in my heart.
What I did tell Henry is that when we confess to one another we rehearse how God interacts with us too. That we are modeling how God feels about us, that no matter how badly we think or behave or speak when we ask to be forgiven and when we work toward being better, He is there with us, waiting, listening, forgiving, helping us.
And so we prayed because he said he wanted to. And I told him that becoming Orthodox means that we have the added support of the church, that we can go to Father J whenever we feel like we need to and ask to offer a confession as well. We can stand before the icon of Christ and ask God to hear us in that confession. It’s not the only time we can ask God for help and the forgiveness doesn’t come ‘through’ Father J but that Father J is there to stand with us in a scary time, to be a person of support and love, when we feel most broken and afraid, like Adam and Eve in the garden, having had a snack they weren’t meant to take. Instead of hiding in the bushes we can come before God knowing that He loves us and that his vision for us is to become more like Christ, the best version of our selves.
Someplace in there of course he got over it, because he has a short attention span. I can tell because he starts to look around, his legs move before he even decides he’s moving. He bounces and he smiles a little. He’s 9, it’s in his wiring. I asked if he felt better and he did. He went to sleep and this morning he said nothing about it. He was the boy he always is…carefree, excited about a new day. I love that he doesn’t carry over, he doesn’t wake up afraid and feeling alone. It’s inspiring really. Maybe that’s why I have these little prophets running around here? Maybe that’s the value added part of parenting. I feel unbelievably grateful.