There went our nice, relaxing Saturday morning.
Sophia bolts towards me. She practically knocks me over with her embrace. Soon my T-shirt is drenched with her tears and snot. “I don’t like the way Daddy parents!” Sophia complains. “He scares me, and he hurts my feelings!” She wants justice. I invite her to cuddle on the sofa to sort out her feelings.
Growl. Sigh. Husband isn’t pleased. Sophia failed to follow her father’s instructions. This I know. Husband’s eyes accuse me, and his body language bellows exasperation.
“Great,” he says, sarcasm dripping. “You’re gonna undo everything that I’m trying to teach her.”
Not long ago I felt sandwiched between the love of my life and the fruit of my loins when Daddy-daughter conflicts arose. As I wife, I need to stand with my husband. “Mommy and Daddy are a unified parental front,” we say to our girls ad nauseum. With this mantra we uphold and respect one another. Together Husband and I are a team. Each of us is for the other.
As a mother, I have a natural instinct to care well for my cubs. Lionesses are known to take a swipe at even the lion king if he goes too far with a cub. My daughters need to know that, second to God, I am their protectoress, an oasis amidst life’s wildernesses and deserts. If no one else is for my daughters, Mama is.
The conundrum: If I am for my husband, am I against my daughters? Conversely, if I am for my daughters, am I against my husband?
The tail chase: If I am with my husband on Team Marriage, then I am for him. And if I’m for him, then I can’t be for my daughters. And if I’m not for my daughters, then I am the worst mother who ever lived. No child should have to suffer a mother who isn’t for her or him. Also, no wed person should have to suffer a spouse who isn’t for her or him.
And then I return to the top of the argument with myself. Second verse is the same as the first.
“Unfortunately, this [for/against] logic prevails in the … world today,” says author and speaker Margo Starbuck in her new book Permission Granted: And Other Thoughts on Living Graciously Among Saints and Sinners (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013). It’s as prevalent in politics, business, and the church as it is in families. It’s a matter of allegiance, and where we think ours should lie. Our reputation and self-concept hinge on us choosing the “right” side.
Ms. Starbuck reminds us of Jesus.
“Scouring the Gospels, I find no evidence that this tragic human logic ruled the mind of Jesus,” Starbuck writes. “Rather, Jesus’ words and actions bore witness to the fact that [he] was moved by an entirely different compass” (106).
That compass? Love. Jesus was and is for literally God and everyone. So great is Jesus’ love that there is room within it enough for righteous and sinners alike.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17: 20-21).
Following our earlier logic: If Jesus is for and even in everyone, knowing that we’re all sinners, that must mean he condones our behavior.
“According to [that] line of thinking, Jesus is pro-prostitution, pro-extortion, pro-adultery, pro-gluttony, pro-hypocrisy, pro-drunkenness, and pro-syncretism,” says Starbuck. “That twisty logic says that, [as Jesus’ follower], if [you’re for] someone, then you necessarily condone [everything they do], even if you don’t” (231).
Whether Jesus condoned or condemned people’s behavior didn’t make a difference. He was for them, he loved them, and he wanted them to be whole. Like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32), Jesus is filled with compassion and runs toward his wayward children (v. 20). All the while, his love does not diminish for his other children who stay with him (v. 31).
We are called to do the same.
Confused husband standing across the room from me. Weeping child in my arms. Who am I for? Both of them. On this day I wedge myself out from between my lovies, and grant myself permission not to choose, but to follow Jesus’ example.
I hold and listen to my daughter, honor her feelings, and ask questions that guide her. “I didn’t follow Daddy’s directions, Mommy,” Sophia says eventually. Husband and I share what we call a marriage look – it says everything, goes deep, and affirms our soul-to-soul connection without one word.
Just like that, Love gets our relationships and our Saturday back on track.
Questions for y’all: Do you feel stuck between your spouse and your children? How might it look if you choose to love and “side with” both of them?