Picture her on Easter morning. In the dress her grandma mailed her, a zebra-striped get-up with a big pink bow. I would have chosen something more subdued, but my little girlloves it. Her barrette has abandoned its post and now it dangles, caught in a mass of baby soft hair around her face. Her arms and hands are stained an uneven green, a reminder of the moment last week when she wanted to be a monster and colored herself.Of course she chose the non-washable markers for the job. One knee and calf spark pink just below the hem of her skirt, semi-permanent after she poured a vial of nail polish onto the floor, then painted her leg from the puddle. She has pink sandals to match her new dress, but she refuses to wear them. Instead she is barefoot. Her sandals are in my purse.
Picture her on Easter Sunday morning, looking a mess. And I love her.
Not only does she look a mess, but she’s three years old. Three-year-olds are … feisty. Temperamental. This one is awfully teary, and has a propensity to scream. They don’t take their naps, they throw their food on the floor, they poke their baby brother in the eye and steal their big brothers’ toys. They sneak chocolate chips out of the pantry and squat beside the potty. Three-year-olds – all of them – are a handful.
Picture her on Easter morning. Picture me, looking weary.
And I love her. I don’t love her in spite of her mess. I don’t love her anyway. I just love her.
In fact, her appearance and (mis)behavior are irrelevant to how I see her. I look at my little girl and I am overwhelmed with love. She is so precious. She is so little and beautiful, so funny and full of life. When she is hurt or even in trouble, I am overwhelmed with empathy. When I see her sweet disposition peeking out just below the surface of her three-year-old behavior, and I am overwhelmed by just how … her she is. She is perfectly herself, and I love her for it. But even if she had a completely different personality, I would still love her just as much.
I don’t love her because of how she looks or what she does. I love her because she is mine to love.
This week, as I experienced Holy Week through the liturgy, I thought often of my little girl. In years past, her green monster marker and nail polish stains on Easter morning would have been my spiritual metaphor. “See?” I would have thought. “You come in dirty, but God loves you anyway.”
I no longer believe that’s true. God does not love me in spite of my messiness. He doesn’t love me anyway. He’s not shaking His head at my screw-ups. He’s not merely tolerating my weakness. He loves me for the same reason I love my daughter – because I am His to love.
I think about how I feel about my little girl – my disheveled, feisty, beautiful three-year-old little girl – and I think, thanks be to God.