Her sobs in the darkness stirred me awake. I was confused. My daughter stood over me shaking. I could hardly make out her words. Her hands were practically inside her mouth stuffing her sadness back down inside of her.
“What is it, Noelle?” I said calmly, still waking up.
“Mom, I had a dream you died.” She trembled. I couldn’t see her tears, but I could feel them through her words.
I pulled back the covers and invited her in beside me. Her body was chilly, and she instantly suctioned to my skin.
“Mommy is right here,” I whispered and stroked her hair.
She was already asleep. My eyes were closed again, and I smiled. It sounds weird, but I smiled. It feels morbid to smile over my daughter’s sad dream, but I did and this is why.
My daughter doesn’t say, “I love you.” I haven’t heard her say those three words in several years. I’m not sure when she stopped. I just remember one day she didn’t reply with those precious words, “I love you too, Mom!”
Noelle is shy and tender and quiet. She holds her feelings close. She doesn’t cuddle either. She doesn’t jump into my arms. When I kiss her forehead, she squirms away.
For a mom whose love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch, it has been hard for me that Noelle does neither of them. She will make me breakfast in bed, draw me pictures, but never say, “I love you.” She will never let me hug her.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but there was a season when I stopped saying “I love you” to my daughter because I knew she wouldn’t respond. I didn’t reach for her hand because I knew she would pull it away. I know I am the adult in the relationship, but these small things felt like rejection. So I just stopped doing them. I would hug each of my children goodnight, but when I got to Noelle, I’d just smile and wave.
I think I have the tendency to believe people don’t love me if they don’t receive my love the way I want them to. I’ll love the people who love me back the way I want them to. I’ll love the people who make loving feel good. If someone will affirm my love, I’ll give it to them more. If people reject my love, I’ll stop offering it. I have so many people in my life that give and receive love differently than me. I can make a list of people I know love me, but I don’t believe love me. I convince myself they don’t love me because they don’t show me in a specific way. They don’t love me in a way that makes me feel loved, like with hand squeezes and love notes. So I stop showing up. I stop saying “I love you” the same way I did with my daughter. Slowly, my heart backs away. I think that’s why I smiled when my daughter cried in the middle of the night. I smiled because there was a part of me that believed she didn’t love me. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.
God made each of us with unique ways to give and receive love.
When someone doesn’t give or receive love the way you think they should, resist the temptation to believe they don’t love you. The easiest thing to do is to stop pouring out love. But don’t stop. There isn’t just one right way to love. There aren’t just five love languages but millions of ways we can love because we all have our own God-given love stories. We were each designed to love in our own way. I’m tempted to make love in a black and white way, but I’m learning it can be very fluid. It can bend, flex, and bleed different colors.
Love requires wisdom.
Think about the people in your life right now. Think about your neighbor, your family, or the small group you are in. God has placed each person in your life for a reason. It isn’t an accident. Perhaps as you think about these people, pain arises. Maybe someone has hurt you, rejected you, or treated you unfairly. Hold this person and your pain before Jesus. Hand over your ache, desires, and hopes. Release your plan and your control. Release the way you think the relationship ought to go. Commit this relationship to prayer. God is on the move to bring the healing hope of Jesus to every single relationship in your life. Sometimes He uses us to actively pursue people by showing up day in and day out. Sometimes love looks like waiting for wisdom on how to love well. Either way, let us always love with prayer and by the Spirit.
Right now, God is inviting me to actively pursue my daughter. She needs words and touch even when she is resistant. I’m trying not to take it personally when Noelle’s body remains stiff when I hug her. Even though I know she will shake away, I keep reaching my arms around her day after day. I am also learning to make her favorite meal and take her on special outings because I know it fills her heart to the brim.
May we be faithful to love the people God has placed in our lives on His terms and not just our own.Leave a Comment