"I know I love you, but please leave me alone."

Gayle Nicholson/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

"I know I love you, but please leave me alone."

My 4-year-old said this to my husband recently at the end of the bedtime routine, and it prompted one of those paradoxical parenting moments where you're proud as hell that the language of emotion you're trying to impart to your child bears young fruit, while you're also silently heartbroken that the language—and emotion—are directed at you.

Neither the situation nor the delivery were dramatic—my kid simply wanted Mommy instead of Daddy to stay in the room—but the statement felt dramatic in its blunt honesty. "How often in our lives have we felt this way ourselves?" my husband and I marveled together later that evening, shaking our heads at the "out of the mouths of babes" moment. What we didn't voice out loud was, "How rarely have we had the courage to say it?"

I continued to think about my child's comment the rest of that week, and three interpretations occurred to me:

1. On an interpersonal level, we all need breaks occasionally from the people we love. While I firmly believe we humans are meant to live in community, I also believe those communities thrive best when its members have an opportunity to step away, breathe, and reflect at a distance on any given relationship so that they may come back with clarity and renewed commitment.

2. On a global level, this is often what I want to say to the world. With this winter's tragic run of mass shootings in the U.S., continued war in Europe, train explosions, earthquakes, and more, I struggle to keep from quitting the world—an act that would disengage me from its horror, yes, but also from its pain and its glory, and I must be open to it all to nurture the compassion that will lead me to seek justice.

3. On a spiritual level ... oh boy, do I say this to God on the regular, though in the context of divine relationship, the entire sentence contradicts itself. First, saying "I know" I love God puts our mysterious connection squarely in intellectual territory, which stunts the embodied experience of love. Second, that sneaky little "but" undermines the first clause; it says, I profess love, but I'm not interested in acting on that love. Third, the whole point of discernment is to tune into God's presence. If I insist on burrowing under the covers and putting a pillow over my head, I have missed the point of loving connection entirely.

Here's to children speaking truth, to adults hearing it, and to a God who patiently waits for us to realize we are never truly alone.


Prayer #386: Low Frequency

Your subtle rumble hums beneath my day. The longer wavelengths track the contours of my brain and heart, bridging the vast distances from recognition to comprehension to intuition with annoying ease. Low frequency waves have greater endurance and resilience, and yours bear out this fact; never do you tire, never do you falter, never do you leave.

Forgive my insufficient rabbit ears, askew and static-ridden as they are. I sense your love transmitted, and I am trying my hardest to raise the volume.