My son Owen has always been unique. We used to keep a diary of all of the smart and funny things he used to say when he was learning how to talk and when he was in elementary school. We thought he was so clever. Once when he was little, he told us that one of his teachers never seemed very happy, so he decided that every day he would smile at her and try to get her to smile back, because, as he confidently stated, “smiles are contagious.” Despite his sweet nature, when he was a toddler he struggled terribly with anxiety around people. I remember having to tell guests at our home not to make eye contact with him for the first half hour or so until he warmed up to them. Even grandparents’ visits would sometimes cause him to cry and scream and hide behind my husband and me.
Owen is now a sophomore in high school, and a lot has changed. He has matured in many ways, and thankfully no longer screams when visitors come around. But he is still more comfortable at home or with people he’s familiar with.
A few weeks ago, though, he was invited to a youth group event at a church that he doesn’t normally attend. He agreed since he knew the friend who invited him pretty well. But when I brought him to the unfamiliar building, I started to get anxious myself. We didn’t see anyone else there, not even his friend. We double-checked the time and place, and it looked like we were where we were supposed to be. Suddenly, my son noticed some people standing by a small out-building near the church. We wondered if that was where the youth group might be meeting. I asked Owen if he wanted me to go with him and check, but, of course, the thought of his mother walking him into class was more embarrassing than walking into the wrong venue, so he declined politely. He said he would go up to the building and give me a thumbs up if it was the right place. I watched him walk slowly up to the people milling around the door, knowing him so well and knowing how uncomfortable that was for him, and my heart twisted.
He marched forward and peeked inside the door. He was gone for a minute and then reappeared in the doorway with a grin and a thumbs up. I breathed a sigh of relief and at that moment I was so overcome with love for him that I actually said out loud in my car, “Oh, I love that boy.” It was such a stirring emotion that it almost startled me. I sent up a brief “Thank you” to my heavenly Father for my son, and almost as quickly, I felt Him saying to me, “That’s how I feel about you.”
Now my son had not done anything amazing in anyone else’s eyes but mine. Because I know him well and I know he did something that was uncomfortable for him, even scary, it made me proud. I think God sees us that way too, and I love that He gave us the opportunity to be parents so that we could see and share some of those emotions.
I had been feeling inadequate lately, as many women do, with all of the demands that are put on us and the many directions in which we are pulled, and in that moment, I felt like God was telling me that he is proud of me. Oftentimes I feel like I need to be doing BIG things for God in order for Him to be proud of me. But in that moment with my son, I realized that God sees me taking steps of obedience that are scary for me, and He is smiling and cheering me on. Like when I take a step to start a Body & Soul class, or a bible study in my neighborhood or inviting a friend to coffee that I don’t know very well because God has put it on my heart to do so. He does not consider what I do as small. Instead, He encourages me with His boundless, limitless love, just as I do with my son.
Psalm 147:5 reminds us when we forget, or feel like our gifts and actions aren’t big enough for God, that “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limits.” God knows what we are good at. God knows what we are scared of. He knows each of us as intimately as a parent knows a child, and he loves us even more because of, and in spite of, those qualities. If you don’t know this love personally, I encourage you to take a moment and ask God to show you that limitless love of His for you in a tangible way. He is always happy to hear from his children — because to Him, you are incredibly unique. And His heart beats for you in an “Oh, how I love that child” kind of way!
Chriss Prium is a Body & Soul Fitness Instructor and Boot Camp Program Trainer. She currently teaches both boot camp and power strength classes in Byron Center, Michigan at First Reformed Church of Byron Center. She is a wife to Mark and mom to Owen, Grace and Lily.