“So he got up and went to his father.But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Prodigal Son, Luke 15:20)
One of my favorite moments at my job (so far) happened today.
Kids started arriving; we always have a couple of siblings who get dropped off by parents since they go to a different school, and they started trickling in shortly after my arrival to community house.
Gabby and Eva were the second sibling group to arrive. Eva is the younger of the two, a tiny kindergartener missing her two front teeth and known for her meowing skills. Their mom dropped them off and said hi; I knelt down and outstretched my arms for a hug, as I typically do to Eva when I see her and if she’ll let me (girl is tiny and so dang huggable!). Usually I sweep her up, hug her and put her down quickly so she can get to playing. Today was different, though.
When I picked her up, she quickly nestled her head deep into my shoulder, wrapped her tiny arms around me, and sighed, comfy and content. She closed her eyes and rested on my shoulder for a good 30 minutes. Every once and awhile she’d turn her head to see who was coming through the door or if someone asked if she was okay, but she’d quickly return to her warm spot in my arms. I asked her if she was okay or didn’t feel well; she nodded yes when I asked if she was just tired. So she rested. I’d ask her if she was ready to go play or get down, and she’d shake her head no. She just wanted to be. She just wanted to rest.
And I was her safe place to do that.
One of my goals in life is for people to feel safe around me. Safe to confide, safe to be honest, safe to seek comfort or a listening ear. I want my students to feel like they can trust me; I want my friends to feel like they can be themselves when I ask them how they’re really doing.
And I want to feel safe around people. I want to be comfortable enough to let my guard down with someone, to snuggle into someone’s shoulder and just breathe– no reason, but just for comfort and love. I want to feel safe to be honest and open without fear of being dropped when the real me is seen.
I’m good at making others feel safe (at least I aim to be- I hope I am). I’m not so good at letting others be a safe place for me to lie my head down and be real with.
As I was holding Eva, I was at peace. I just knew this was where I was needed in the moment, just snuggling her. Time stood sill as I sat and comforted her in that quiet moment; no other task mattered when she say cozy in my lap. I could have been playing with kids. I could have been chatting with roommates or volunteers. I could have been supervising snack or preventing fights.
But that’s not what was needed in that moment. I was exactly where I needed to be.
That baby needed to be held.
Don’t we all, sometimes?
I need people to be my safe place. To be the place I run and let hold me when I’m tired and need to just breathe for a bit. I’ve never let myself get close enough to someone to let them in that far, but the older I get and the more life crap I work through, the more I realize how desperately i need to let people hold me and be that safe place in my life– instead of me being that person for others with nothing in return.
Eventually I asked Eva if she’d like to get a snack (she hadn’t eaten yet since I picked her up when she got there), so we walked to the snack cart together before I went to get ready for the afternoon.
As I was holding her, I was praying, thinking silently about this moment. This is it, isn’t it God? This is what You do for me. This is what it’s like when we finally let ourselves find rest in your arms.
It was the embodiment of Matthew 11:28: “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
When i finally give up my “I can do it all on my own, I don’t need anyone to help me handle all the things” tendencies and run into his arms, He always is right there, in that exact moment, whenever I need him.
Just as I was there to be a resting place for that sweet babe, he’s there with open arms, ready for us to find true rest and peace in the only place it can be found: in Him.
Who knew a sleepy, comfort-seeking five year-old could teach me so much about the character of God?