“What Is It In Me?” {a note that stretches beyond the mom}

“Pray for this one,” I tell my friends that I know well.

It was a subtle drip, the negativity coming from this child. If I made hashmarks in that moleskin of mine for every time the commentary that slid out of their mouth and into the space of ours that was otherwise peaceful, I might just be sick. I read, a while back, that orphans develop a vigilance for all that is around them. It’s a means of attempting to control the world they see, for the child whose life has been uncontrollable.

My child developed an eye for the nuances in another that most don’t notice and this vigilance, combined with a life that hit this particular one, hard, produced a lens for all that is broken. Paste that on young thing and you can imagine what the mouth might speak. It was subtle enough that no one bumping up against the world outside our home would see, subtle enough to avoid what might incur discipline. But this mama — she caught it all.

[pullquote]Change this little one’s heart, God. You are healer, would you heal these wounds spilling up and over in front of all of us? Make this one new.[/pullquote]

I didn’t just hear it, I felt it.The passive aggressive drip that said less about the sibling of which they were speaking and more about the torrent underneath all those words wore treads under my everyday mamahood.

So I dented the floor with my knees. Where else would I go?

Change this little one’s heart, God. You are healer, would you heal these wounds spilling up and over in front of all of us? Make this one new.

Weeks of prayers became months and I was settling in to what Nate so often calls “the long view.” It may take a decade to see this heart move. You hone your eye for the little milestones when you see the haul ahead as long.

But one day a thought came to me. What if I made a shift? 


I’d done it before with variables that just weren’t budging. Not frequent enough for it to be second nature, but I had stories of how God moved in the one right in front of me when I started asking “where’s that sliver lodged within me?”

So over a series of days I asked Him: “what is it in me that’s adding to this child’s mess?” Oh trust me, this is hard question for a mama who knows the history of her child’s wounds. I could list the perpetrators — people and time and loss. I live the consequences of life’s big hits on this child. I’ve studied them. Did I really play a part in all this negativity? This child couldn’t be more different than how I walk.

I wrestled through all those reasons not to ask, while still remembering my history. This wasn’t the first time I played a role, subconsciously.

And just as soon as I asked, I knew. I needed to love different. I needed to love unhinged. This one was craving a love from me that required nothing of them to get it. They needed belly-tickles and a game of chase and time without instruction or correction, but expectation-less love. They needed my delight, not my dutiful kiss or my quick hug because that’s what mommies do.

This child needed to see that spark in my eye as I looked into theirs, and this wasn’t something I could muster on my own.

I’d been trying. Striving. Mimicking love. But all those things were still resting on a foundation of understanding that wasn’t true. It wasn’t whole.


Two of us sinners in a relationship make two of us culpable. Always.

When I spend all my energy searching out the flaws in another, God’s love gets stunted. This reconciliatory love can not move towards it’s full expression in this child or in me if I’m unbending.

And I was unbending.

Isn’t it easy? Especially with a child. We study their gaps and wait for their healing — all in the name of God’s timing — when maybe, just maybe He’s waiting on us to ask “what is it in me?”

I spent nearly a decade of my life avoiding this question. It spanned most all of my relationships. Something ingrained in human nature leads us to believe that this question is the death-trap. We’re going down when we take eyes off of them, and ask Him for a lens on us. Justice is when their wrong is righted or their hurt is finally healed. It can’t be me, here.

“What is it in me, Father?” digs my grave.  Death-trap it is, I suppose. The kind of death that invites life.

It is this very question that’s putting an end to years of this child’s severed story bubbling up and over the rest of us.

I asked. I heard.

Yup, there was something in me.

So I repent and stumble towards turning in the form of words and belly-tickles and games of chase. I ask God to give me that spark in my eye that this child will know is just for them. I ask for an unnatural love, imparted. I bend.

And this kid? This one with history and hurt and a dozen reasons to be hindered for life, they begin to show signs of change. Friends, my stuck-child is getting unstuck. Surprise hugs and unsolicited kind words and that note on my desk that read: “I love you Mommy and I know you love me.” My child has spiked a giggle.


The other day I heard songs from the kitchen — from this one whose known a new form of mama’s delight — and I knew it was from God to me: never stop asking the question your flesh most resists. When you go low, with them I am lifted up.

For the mother, the wife, the daddy, the pastor, the co-worker, the sister, the best friend and the neighbor: when was the last time you asked Him — when faced with that rift in another — what is it in me?


For Your Continued Pursuit: Matthew 5:5 | Psalm 25:9 | Matthew 7:1-5 | James 4:6-10 | 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 | Matthew 11:29-30

Photographs compliments of Mandie Joy.