My oldest daughter is precocious. She is 5 and she comes from a long line of very head-strong women – at least three generations, but I never really knew the women in the generations above that. So with two ladies in the house who have strong opinions and strong wills, you can imagine that there tends to be a decent amount of conflict in our house. Truthfully, I would not have it any other way. I am happy that my daughter already has a strong sense of self, knows how to articulate her wants and needs, and takes on leadership whenever she can. Despite that realization, there are moments each day where I just feel exasperated by the struggle, and wish we could just have an easy conflict-free relationship. I have even wondered at times whether my daughter might be equally frustrated with me, already dreaming of adulthood, when she can be her own woman.
The thing that holds us together is the little moments of grace. I have taken on the daily habit of whispering a secret to my daughter, “I love you.” I try to say it at different times, and I especially try to say it after we have had a difficult patch. Sometimes she guesses the secret before I say it. Sometimes she rolls her eyes. But every time, she smiles and the tension breaks. Lately, I have noticed her doing the same for me. Not actually saying the words, but giving me small gestures of love. Just yesterday, we had a parent/child project at school. We were busy working on it, and I was both trying to complete the project with her and keep her focused. As we were wrapping up, and she seemed to be off to the next thing, she ran back to me and threw her arms around me for an extended hug. She did not say anything. But she didn’t have to.
I have often wondered whether the parent-child relationship is a bit like my relationship with God. I too long for independence and sense of control, and I certainly have conflict with God from time to time. But we also have these tender moments where we both express love for one another. Actually, I think God probably expresses love for me all the time – I just am too hard-headed to hear it. But it is those tender moments where I acknowledge God’s love for me and I express my love for God that sustain me.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, you may be approaching time with your family or friends who are like family. And with family can also come conflict. My prayer for you is that your day might be dotted with those little moments of grace and love: whether it is an inside joke, a shared moment in the kitchen or while watching the parade, or just a simple wordless hug. May love, grace, and gratitude outshine all else tomorrow – or at least help you get through the day. Happy Thanksgiving!