Almost daily I have to physically restrain my son. It is a physical battle to change his diaper and clean his body. Many times while cleaning and changing him I have been kicked in the face, bitten, smacked, clawed, or hit with flying objects. It is not all that uncommon to come away from a cleanup with a bloody lip or a new scratch.
Jake is the size of a small man now…and stronger than most full sized men. It takes at least two people to bathe him—one to hold him down, the other to scrub. My wife and I (and now my biggest teenage son) have developed a system of strength in numbers as we attempt to get in, get the job done, and get out without too much damage.
I must confess that on many mornings I leave Jake’s room dejected, hurt and emotionally drained. And many nights I find myself restraining the violent resistance of a struggling boy by wrapping him in my arms against his will and gently whispering, “I love you. I love you. I love you…no matter what.”
Most children are relational and have the ability to reciprocate affection. But what happens when the child cannot communicate love? How does the relationship between parent and child grow and thrive when the child is not relational? What bonds parent and child together when the child does not share in the affection? How do you care for someone that resists your care with violence and opposes your very presence even when your presence is for his good?
The only possible way to make any sense of this kind of relationship is to experience it through the truly unconditional love of God the Father. As I reflect on my seemingly one sided relationship with my son, I am forced to see how it is sometimes a portrait of my own relationship with God.
In the defiance of my son to be loved, cared for and washed clean, I am shown a portrait of the cross. The one-sided violence of love reveals a blurred vision of my own redemption, as a bloody, beaten, crucified Savior wraps me in His arms, subdues me with His affection and whispers in my ear, “I love you. I love you. I love you…no matter what.”