My 11-year-old has suffered with migraines for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, she inherited this from me. (Ironically enough, chronic migraines started for me immediately after her birth and have lessened over time but never stopped.) As a fellow migraine sufferer and mother that shares oh so much DNA and personality with this child, I can relate to so many details of how and what she feels during a migraine. At least I can draw from my own experiences to figure out specific ways to help her that she cannot communicate to me. One day recently, she had been suffering a lot with the “knock-you-flat-on-your-back” kind of migraine, complete with full force nausea , that lasted all day long.
Let me back up and tell you just a little about this dear girl. She is normally very independent and self-sufficient. She has been fixing her own hair for school since she was six years old. Now at 11, she wants to do her own pedicures instead of letting me because she can paint a chevron design better than I can. (She tried to break this to me gently. And after seeing her completed toenails, I knew she was right.) Besides being independent, she also holds her emotions tight and doesn’t show affection often. She gets tense when you hug her, so for the most part, we don’t hug often. When we do, you can be sure it is with her permission or initiation. So I have this independent, responsible and non-clingy child who is capable and functional beyond her years. All these things can add together to make us both feel in many ways that she doesn’t need me.
But I’ve noticed how being in intense pain changes this girl. Many of you that have migraines know about the unbearable pain that can render you completely unable to function. The generally independent spirit that can take care of everything becomes unable to control or take care of anything. So I find my girl relates to me differently in these moments. She lets me help her wash her hair and gently brush the tangles out. She asks me to rub her head, and lets me rub her feet. And even more amazing to me is that she does all this while staying relaxed and doesn’t tense up on physical contact. She’s given in, and she’s letting me love her and take care of her. These moments are so highly uncommon and they are of course precious to me. These are the kinds of things I haven’t done for her in years. She even let me paint her toe nails. Okay, so painting toe nails wasn’t actually necessary, but once I figured out that she would let me do stuff, I took a little advantage because it was like “Hello, mommy/daughter moments of years past that I thought were long gone!” There’s something about giving up your need for control and managing your environment that’s so freeing. And that’s what I saw in this limp and relaxed little girl as she let me love her and care for her in ways that I normally don’t.
Looking at this child is so often like looking in the mirror. Sometimes I love how I see God reflecting himself in the same ways through my girl and I, but other times the image I see can be frustrating and painful as it reveals things that I need to work on. This particular look reminded me of how I interact with God in my own times of pain when I am forced to relinquish all control. Like her, in those times, I can’t be independent. I can’t do the things I had planned or feel I should, and I feel the frustration that I’ve seen her struggle with. My mind says, “What if I lay in bed all day and don’t get to check anything off my list? What about the closet I was going to reorganize? We’re out of milk too. And I’m supposed to be buying green paint for Lydia to start a project after school. What if my family has to microwave frozen corn dogs for dinner because I can’t get up to make the chicken enchiladas I had planned?” And then God says, “You’re right. Today will accomplish nothing that you had planned. But it will accomplish everything that I had planned.” And if I can relax and resign myself to that being my day, I can let Him love me. And I wonder, do I also feel that I don’t always need God in much the same way that my daughter doesn’t seem to always need me? In times of pain, sometimes all you can do is sleep, pray and listen to music. The way God meets me there in those times is so tender and real. The way he slows me down, and the way he reminds me of his love and special care for me is a gift I could not have received outside of those circumstances. It’s something I would not have stopped to look for or experience if I had felt well enough to choose the course of my day. I see him express love and care for me in ways that I don’t normally let happen or slow down enough for. And I can imagine the joy that God must feel in those moments, because as a parent I’ve felt that joy also.
There will be times in life when all we need to do is to let Him love and care for us. Maybe it’s through physical pain, a season of unbearable grief or a struggle that seems impossible. You may have even unconsciously fallen into the pattern of “not needing him” like I sometimes do. But let Him take care of you through these times. Let go and let Him love you in new and precious ways.