Like most 2-year-olds, Evie’s favorite trending word is “MINE.” She’s going to make a terrific basketball player someday, because if anyone heads for a toy, even one that’s been lying dormant for 3 days on our floor, she rushes over, screams “Mine!” authoritatively, and boxes the other child out with her body, shuffling her feet and working from side to side, arms out. She instinctively knows to keep her elbows down, so I don’t think she’ll get into foul trouble…unless the refs frown upon biting and nipple-twisting.
She likes to mix it up with the ownership lingo. “Mine” has recently morphed into “My princess_____.” If I say “your dress,” Her Highness corrects me with “My PRINCESS dress.” “My PRINCESS sticker.” “My PRINCESS peanut butter sandwich.” Just the other day she actually called her latest toilet contribution “my princess poop.” It DID royally smell.
Mine. My Evelyn. My Princess Evelyn.
Throughout my spiritual journey, my circumstances at the time have snapped different aspects of God into focus. Things that seemed bizarre or even off-putting suddenly make sense.
I’ve never understood when God calls Himself “jealous.” He is a “jealous God.” (Deut. 4 is one example.) Jealous? Ew. Jealousy is bad, isn’t it? We’re not supposed to harbor jealousy. I didn’t like the idea of a jealous God. I didn’t get it.
And this year with Evie, this aspect of a jealous God has snapped into focus. I am a jealous mom, and she shall have no other moms before me.
When we brought her home almost a year ago, she was attached to several caregivers. When one couldn’t meet a need, she’d turn to another one. These loving women worked in teams, revolved in shifts, and cared for her and her roommates. She didn’t see them cooking. She didn’t see the cleaning or doing laundry. She didn’t see them needing to use the bathroom or shower or make a phone call or talk with a friend. And I replaced them all. Just me, caring for her 24-7, and doing all those other things.
When I couldn’t meet a need or presented her with a boundary that she didn’t like, she turned to the nearest woman in the room. She’d walk from woman to woman until she found someone to do what she wanted. Sometimes she’d wiggle out of my arms to run to a stranger who was smiling at her and beg to be picked up. “Love me. Accept me! Look at how cute I am!” At the music class we attended, she wanted to do the songs in the teacher’s lap, not mine. She sought approval from all the mommies, not just me. If I turned my back for a second at the park, she was grabbing a stranger’s hand and walking off, taking the other woman where she wanted to go. I’d bend to get something off the shelf at the grocery store and she’d be hugging a stranger. I’d fumble for my wallet, and she’d be in a stranger’s arms.
Last winter, a friend who Evie had never met stopped by. Evie immediately climbed into her arms, and as my friend was cooing over her and rocking her, Evie laid her head on my friend’s shoulder. She looked at me, then cuddled in deep into my friend. A stranger to her. I broke inside. I’d been waiting for that moment. And she gave it to another woman. She wanted me to hold her every moment of the day, but it was twisting writhing every muscle taut holding. Pushing and pulling and grabbing and slapping holding. Not comfort. Not gentle. I was someone to wrestle not someone for rest. In the middle of her moment of bliss, I blurted out “Give her back!” My friend laughed, thought I was joking. I half-smiled. “No really. GIVE HER BACK!” She did, and my daughter immediately went from restful to combative.
She loved me. She knew that I was Mommy. But she sought approval and acceptance and love from every woman in the room. She needed to control everyone, to bring everyone under her spell of adorableness.
And I choked back tears and felt rejection when she screamed “NO!” at me and ran into the arms of another woman. And I understood my Father God in a new way. “I, the Lord Your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
I am a jealous mom. I’m jealous for her love and jealous for her choosing me. “Thou shalt have no moms before me and I will fight and fight for your total love.”
I made our world smaller. I strapped on my mom-balls and had awkward conversations with friends, family, and random strangers. I learned to smile, tread gently, but use a firm voice when stranger after stranger after stranger asked to hold her. No one ever did that with my son. But my gorgeous, exotic, extremely extroverted daughter seems to elicit a compulsion in people to need to touch her.
We started language with her. Simple. “We don’t touch strangers!” “Ask Mommy first!” And this summer my in-laws taught her how to shake hands. We are LOVING the handshake. I still have strangers try to pick her up, I step in and ask them not to, they ask why, I explain, and then they bend down and ask my daughter if they can pick her up like I’m not standing there. Mmm, do they WANT to see the green-eyed mom-monster?!?
After months of loving work and careful education, surrounding ourselves with friends who understand and respect our “rules,” and loads and loads of God’s sweet grace raining down and seeping into the cracks in my parenting, Evie and I have a bond that goes beyond necessity, goes beyond met needs and whether or not I make her happy every moment of the day. We are mother-daughter. We are lie in bed together and giggle. We are huge light-up smile when we see each other.
And this is huge. She will finally, finally lay her head to rest on my shoulder. I kiss the top of her head over and over. And over and over and over. I breathe in her coconut smell. She’s my daughter. And I’m her mother. And she shall have no other moms before me. MINE.
As I’ve considered this jealous aspect of God and my own journey with Evie, I now realize the deep, deep LOVE that He feels for us. His jealousy isn’t rooted in a power play. He wants all of us. He wants our devotion to Him alone. I understand that now. And I’m humbled that He would fight for my heart like I’ve fought for Evie’s this year. It’s physically impossible for me to be okay with Evie in the arms of other women giving pieces of herself to them. It’s physically impossible for God to be okay with us giving pieces of ourselves to idols, to false gods, to things that separate us from His love.
What idols am I running to? What other gods am I worshipping? What’s tempting me to wiggle out of God’s arms and into something else? Now I understand the pain that my fickle heart causes Him. Physical, visceral PAIN. We can grieve God when we give our hearts to something besides Him.
I can’t bear the thought of making God feel the way that I often felt this year. My Savior, who made me, who died for me. I can’t bear it. I need to create my own simple language to learn to stay in His arms.
Will it draw my heart away from God?
Will it distract me from Him?
Will it hurt my relationship with Him?
I want no other gods before Him. And I’m grateful to finally understand our Green-Eyed God.
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