During the past week in the Henderson household this question has hit my ears on several occasions. The asker is my four-year-old son, Brayden. The question comes at random times: when he’s engrossed in one of his favorite television shows, when we’re in the car on the way to daycare, at the baseball field when he sneaks out of the dugout…and on and on. It took me by surprise at first.
“Mommy, do you love me?” he would ask.
“Of course I love you,” I would reply to him.
But then he would ask me again, tagging on the ‘so much’ at the end of his question. I would supply my answer again, this time making sure to add, “Yes, I love you so much.” A little smile would grace his young features and he’d go about his business. Sometimes, if we were next to each other, he’d reach over and grab my hand, hug me, or give me one of my most favorite things in the world, a kiss from one of my children.
Before I go on, I have to be honest and say that this past week has been far better than the four that preceded it. My “mommy’s heart” was wrecked with worry, stress, and questions over my ability to parent effectively. Other things were starting to be effected as I wondered how I could possibly help my oldest son overcome this current time in his young life. He was having difficulty with behavior at daycare and home. In a way, I believe he was having a hard time expressing what he felt. As parents, David and I tried several tactics to help him navigate his feelings. But when a new day came, and another call from daycare informing us that his behavior was still anything but ideal joined it, I began to drown myself in stress over what to do for him.
I wasn’t trying to fix him; I just wanted to help him. I wanted to understand what was going on inside his mind, his heart, and show him the best way to let the world around him hear it. But jumping into the mind of a 4-year-old is anything but easy. He pushed me to my limits. He made me question my ability as a mother. He made me angry. He made me sympathize with him. He made me feel such a range of emotions in a four-week span that I never knew I could feel.
Then, something changed. In a desperate attempt to find something that worked I took to the Internet and researched behavior in his age group. I found something worth trying, discussed it with David, and together we agreed it was worth a shot. This past week has been an answer to a prayer I had been praying for weeks. But the realization of the magnitude of his simple question, and the weeks of our family rollercoaster ride, came to me a little slower.
What if, instead of my son, it’s Jesus asking me the question of Do You Love Me So Much?
In our student ministry I have told our students that God can use things you never would have imagined to get your attention. If you are drifting, He wants you back. If you are going through something that makes you question how He could do that to you, He has a reason. Sometimes, He has to do things that make you blink your eyes several times in disbelief to realize He was involved all along. For me, I believe now that God needed me to not only trust Him, but to respond to His question.
Do you love Me?
Like Peter in John 21 Chapter 5 starting in verse 15 when asked that very question by Christ my answer to Brayden the first time he asked was, “Yes, of course, you know that I love you.” But, like Brayden, Jesus asked him a second time…
“Do you love me?”
Each time Peter responds to Jesus, He is given a command. He is told to feed my lambs, tend my sheep. The third time Jesus asks Peter this question, the Bible says Peter becomes grieved because he had been asked three times. Peter even replied, “Lord, You know everything: You know that I love You.” But Jesus just gives Peter another command. Feed My sheep.
What does this all mean? Why didn’t Jesus smile at Peter and tell him He loved him too? Why did He reference animals, which for the most part are seemingly helpless without guidance, instead of give out more specific commands? Maybe you’re thinking, surely Jesus smiled at Peter when he told Jesus he loved Him. He had too! Jesus is love, remember? We weren’t there.
But the truth is that Jesus was trying to get Peter’s attention. He asked him a simple question that even today most of us take for granted. Yes, He knew what Peter would say. Sure, He didn’t really have to ask, but sometimes we have to go through something that is possibly unpleasant to see what He is truly trying to do.
This leads me to our current sermon series at Journey. For me, Jesus is there. He’s never gone. He doesn’t leave. He doesn’t check out when the going gets tough and leave you to fend for yourself. He’s present. He knows. And He desperately wants to walk with you through it all. He only needs you to say to Him, “Yes, I do love You, and Lord, I need You.”
I don’t doubt that God used my young son to remind me that He was there with me through it all. Brayden needed my help during this time, will continue to need my help as he grows, but I know God needs me to know He is only a prayer away. In my anxiety and doubt, even I question that. But He always has a way of showing me that even when I don’t think it…He’s there. He showed me in the little smile on Brayden’s face. He showed me in the sweet way Brayden kissed my cheek. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. Jesus wants me. Jesus wants you. Jesus is there for us all.
Do you love Him so much?