Over the last two years, we’ve amassed quite a collection of plastic trinkets, thanks to our obedient (at school, anyway) boys. This year, Elijah’s first grade teacher invites the students who have good behavior all week to eat lunch with her in the classroom every Friday, so he always looks forward to “Lunch Bunch.” He also gets to select a treasure.
(As an aside, "treasure chest" has long been one of those adorable kid-language quirks in our house. It was only a few weeks ago that I finally explained to Elijah that the object itself was not called a “treasure chest.” For years he’s been saying, “I got a treasure chest today!” “Look, see my treasure chest?”)
I digress. So last Friday, on the way home from school, Elijah was excited to tell me what he had picked out from the treasure chest. “Mom, wait till you see it,” he said. “I got something for you. It’s beautiful.”
Instead of selecting some sort of racecar or superhero figure, Elijah chose a “pretty necklace,” and he presented it to me with pride.
Not since Steve placed a diamond on my left hand have I felt more proud to wear a piece of jewelry, or more undeserving of the love with which it was given.
I realize every mother gets a million of these cheap trinkets from her offspring. I can remember excitedly shopping at my elementary school’s Secret Santa Shop for Christmas gifts I was just sure my parents would LOVE (paid for with their own money). But this is my first one, and it feels like a milestone—not least because it actually cost Elijah something.
This wasn’t him taking money he’d gotten from Daddy and picking out a present for me. And it wasn’t prompted by an occasion like Mother’s Day or my birthday. This was Elijah simply loving me: looking through all the treasures, spotting a sparkly necklace, thinking of me and wanting me to have it more than he wanted a new toy.
These last few days, as I feel the weight of a cheap aqua heart pendant around my neck, it is heavy with a son’s love for his mama. And it has me pondering gospel implications.
Being a mother is indeed teaching me about unconditional love and the way God the Father relates to us. But it isn’t in the way everyone says, the way I expected. No, often *I* am the child in the relationship, learning from the love of my son.
I’m finding that this little necklace—unexpected, undeserved gift—does more to motivate me to be a good mom than any amount of reading pep talks (or shaming screeds) about motherhood. It has more of an impact than “should”-ing myself, more than beating myself up about how I’ve failed and resolving to try harder and do better. I touch the bejeweled hearts, and when I realize how loved I am in spite of my mistakes, I *want* to be the mama Elijah needs. I want to walk worthy of a necklace.
How can I be irritated with him, when he chose something from the treasure chest for me? How can I yell at him, when he loved me enough to sacrifice taking something for himself? How can I be impatient with him, when he kept me on his mind and heart and picked out a beautiful trinket just because he thought it would make me smile?
“Stop yelling! You’re crushing him! Good moms don’t yell at their kids! You’ve GOT to get your anger under control!”—funny how that doesn’t actually seem to help.
“He loves you, in spite of yourself. He is glad you are his mama, even after all the times you’ve yelled at him.”—amazing how that inspires me to take a deep breath, look at him through different eyes, and love him.
And finally God begins to get it through my thick head: We love because He first loved us. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. Growth and change come not by beating ourselves over the head with should and ought-tos, but by resting securely in His grace—through being rooted and grounded in His deep, deep love for us.
How can I be indifferent toward Him, when He chose me as His treasure?
How can I betray Him, when He loved me enough to sacrifice His only Son for me?
How can I distrust Him, when His thoughts toward me are without number?
What the law could not do, God did—by sending His own Son. By lavishing His love. By adopting us as His children. We love, because He first loved us. And then we change, because we love.
Elijah gave me a trinket that spoke volumes about his love for his mama. More than that, he gave me the gift of seeing the gospel a little bit more clearly. He gave me a glimpse of Jesus’ love for me.
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card
A Bible with a broken spine
A rainbow lanyard with a pewter cross pendant
Pages of prayers scrawled in a journal
Flip-flops with holes worn through the heels