My daughter Aletheia is on the brink of turning four, and for several weeks now, I have been hounding her, trying to convince her to remain three.
“Aletheia,” I’ll say, “Why don’t you just stay three for one more year? Do you think you could do that for mommy?”
As a mom, it’s hard for me to watch her grow so fast. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she turned three? I turn around, blink my eyes, and there she goes, sprouting into four.
I had no idea that my finagling was getting through to her until a couple days ago. As I helped her get ready for bed she said to me, “Mommy, I’m not going to turn four, I’m going to stay three.”
At first I was thrilled. Wow! I thought, if only it were really that easy. But then my thoughts turned to her. “Aletheia,” I asked. “Would you really be willing to give up your birthday and stay three for one more year?”
“Yes, mommy, I would do that,” she softly replied.
“Do you want to stay three, because that’s what you want or are you just doing that for mommy?”
“I’m just doing that for you, mommy,” she said. “I want to have my birthday. I want to turn four.”
In that moment, my selfishness hit me square in the face. I was humbled and convicted.
There was my daughter, so innocent, so kind, ready and willing to freely give up her birthday. The presents, the cake, the chance to turn four, everything, all for me. And what was I willing to give? Instead of giving to her, what was rightfully hers, I held on tight and grasped at comfort, security, and everything that I thought would make me happy, all at her expense.
What is motherhood, if it is not a continual and ongoing act of letting go?
In Aletheia’s pre-school class, we’re learning about Hannah and Samuel. It’s been a while since I’ve visited this passage of scripture and as I taught this story to Aletheia, I was struck by Hannah’s willingness to let Samuel go.
After praying, and asking, and seeking God for a son, Hannah let that dearly loved son go, to serve Eli and God. Am I, in any way, willing to do the same? God may not expect me to send my children to work in a temple or serve an old man, but he does expect me to let them go. He does expect me send them back to His loving hands. The hands from which they came.
With my selfish heart, raw and throbbing, I looked into the eyes of my sweet, sweet, girl. “Aletheia,” I said. “As your mommy, it is my job, to make sure that you grow. Each and every year, it is my job and my privilege to do everything I can to make sure you grow into the special person that God wants you to be. Thank you for being willing to love me so much that you would give up your birthday for me, but because I love you, I can’t let you do that. I want you to have your birthday. I want you to turn four.”
Aletheia smiled and we hugged as my selfish grip loosened its hold. As freedom and grace covered us both.
Several months ago, I asked Aletheia what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was pure and simple. “I just want to be Aletheia,” she said. I can’t imagine anything more perfect.
Isn’t that the desire of every mother’s heart? To see our precious ones grow into themselves? To grow into everything God intends for them to be?
I have a feeling that Hannah wanted this too, and in her wisdom she knew that the only way for that to happen was for her to let go. To let go of her own hold, though it be fraught with human love, and give her son into the perfect love of God.
I’m learning to do this too. My attempts are flawed. I can barely handle a birthday let alone sending my child to a foreign temple to work with a foreign man. But as I learn to loosen my selfish grip on her, I know that I am falling safer, tighter, and more secure into His loving grip on me.