My oldest son, Conner, who was eight at the time, witnessed all of this. Toward the end of our second day together, with Caroline tucked safely in her stroller, I reached out leisurely and affectionately to grab my son's hand. I wanted to walk with him. He pulled his hand back, and immediately I knew why. I thought about what it had meant to hold Mom's hand the last few days…a fight, discipline, controlling …and I also knew he was getting close to the age where it was no longer cool to need Mom. I knelt down in the center of the walkway on the River Walk. I grabbed both his hands and simply said, "Will you hold my hand just because I love you, just because I am your mom?"
I had to redefine my hand for him. What seemed to be a hand that signaled discipline and failure was about something different; it was about a relationship. I wanted him to love me and need me just because he was eight and I was his mom, not because I was disciplining him or trying to control him.
God is reaching out to us, wanting us to see we need him. But since he is God, we think he wants some song and dance from us—in other words, behavior modification. He actually just wants us. He longs to set us free. And yes, to accomplish all that, he wants us entirely.
God is home to us. He is where we were made to be. He is what we were made for. We just forget all that while we are trying to be good and independent.
Pretending to be good halts God's movement in our life. Legalism or religion helps us feel better about ourselves, puffs us up, gives us the posture to be critical and judgmental and prideful. Oh, and every- thing human about us loves that. It feels better to live that way. It feels better to walk independently and all grown-up, not holding hands with your mom on the River Walk when you want to feel cool and like an adult. We want to not need God.
I was visiting a halfway house filled with men who had all recently been released from prison. It was the holidays, and the group I was with had brought them a few insignificant gifts to open around Christmastime. I hadn't known what to expect, but my heart instantly began melting.
I saw an older man with his worn shirt tucked in pouring lemonade—the grainy kind that you add water to and stir—and putting out cookies that looked store-bought but were arranged in a pattern on a plate. The other men greeted us with smiles as if they were welcoming the president. I had rushed to get there that night—I was dealing with sitters and car pools and wrapping gifts—and honestly I felt a little cranky, but at the sight of these humble men my pulse slowed and I didn't want to be anywhere else.