He left it on my desk, right before he walked out the door for school. A large, 11 x 17 creation with the four letters of his name carved in red and black marker. His way of saying, “I’m here. Don’t forget about me.”
It’s been well over a year since he joined our family. Within a month of his arrival, we nicknamed him “Radar.” Because from the moment he wakes up until his head hits the pillow at night, he’s pinging the world with constant reminders that he exists.
Some days he does this by following me from room to room, afraid to let me leave his sight. Other days he says “I love you” a hundred times, ping after ping from a 5-year-old desperate for a hundred “I love you’s” in return.
Other days his radar pings aren’t so sweet, like the time he punched the kid on the playground and shoved his sister off the sidewalk. Or the stranger he wrapped himself around because he needed a hug. Or the many days when the sound of his tantrums fills our home. When his need grows desperate, his pings turn into screams and tears.
It’s been a struggle for me, his never-assuaged neediness. I understand the hurt behind it, the attachment wounds that fuel his fear and insecurity. But the depth of his void also overwhelms me. I’m entirely unable to fill it. He is a black hole that swallows up all of the love and reassurance I offer. I pour and I pour, but still he comes up empty, starving for more.
Even so, I say a hundred “I love you’s,” and pray, pray, pray the God who sees his presence in this world will somehow help him heal.
Today, as I look as his name on my desk in kindergarten script, I realize how very much like all of us he is. We, too, have fearsome black holes in need of filling. We, too, ping the world with our presence, asking for reassurance that we matter.
Some days it looks like too many hours on Facebook or a nagging negative attitude. But sometimes our radar pings aren’t so pretty. Hiding a deep hole, we scream and pout and throw tantrums of adult-sized portions. We complain, criticize, accuse, overreact, blame, gossip and throw ourselves at near strangers asking them to follow us, friend us, and value our life’s work. Behind the meltdown, our need is the same:
To feel safe. Loved. Heard.
But a thousand radar pings aren’t going to fill our void. It might afford us a few quick affirmations or momentary sympathies. But our black hole of need will eventually swallow up even the best attempts to make us feel loved. And, before long, the world wearies of pouring into someone who never seems to fill.
To know we matter comes from within, not without. It’s not an external filling, but an internal confidence. My value, your value isn’t subject to a public vote. It’s not based on that painful criticism you received or the long history of mistakes you’ve made.
It’s not based on anything you do, but the fact that you are.
“I have engraved you on the palm of my hand,” God says. He tattoos your existence in this world—your name—on his very self. No need to remind him of your presence. No fear He’ll ever forget.
This is the solid mooring for all the other fillings. When we know our worth and secure our lives on that truth, a hundred offered “I love you’s” don’t disappear into the dark abyss. They simply add to what the One who made us already said is true. And—finally, against all odds—we find ourselves full.
Someday my little boy will get this. Someday he’ll understand that all the wounds of the world can not wipe away the four letters of his name inscribed on a Father’s hand.
Until then, I’ll whisper a hundred “I love you’s.” And make sure he knows about the One who means those sweet words the very most of all.
Do you ever find yourself pinging the world for reassurance? How do you recapture a sense of security and confidence?
Once again… I just love your timely message!! And as I read I thought about the AMAZING Karyn Purvis & I made a mental note to make sure you knew about her… and then I clicked on the link & there she was! Yay! We’re going to see her in Chicago next month & I absolutely cannot wait!
And I’m currently participating in the Ann Voskamp reassurance camp by writing down the little I love yous God sends me. It’s amazing how transforming those little things can be, whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end. We are blessed.
Thank you, Jenny! Karen Purvis and her “The Connected Child” are excellent resources for attachment issues. I’m still in the early stages of learning, but she gives us all hope. BTW, I love that you’re writing down God’s little I love you’s. I’m sure it’s a game changer.
What a heartful post. I loved your words about your son. About pinging the world…. Great way to put it. I think the pings come back hollow if they are not those from ones we love and love us…like sugar cyrstals on the top of an iced cake. Fun, but not really edifying. I think family and close community pity, from people who know us point us to who God is… but only God really holds us. I think we spend our lives learning that God is the center of all things.
Anyway, I loved this post.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Jojo. My husband and I talked about it more this morning. We certainly need affirmation from those close to us. But without a solid foundation, it slips through like water through a bottomless pitcher. I love your comment about sugar crystals … fun, but not edifying.
I just read this post – I share your heart for this message to be anchored in our hearts.
Your words provide such clear visuals. Love the gentleness and honesty of your tone. Thank you!
Thank you, Teresa. I love how you used the word “anchor.” Yesterday, after posting this, I read Heb. 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Beautiful.
So true, about – well, everything. How often we can desperately seek to hear the response from from others, even those we do not know, thinking that somehow that response will satisfy. C.S. Lewis really nails this idea when talking about “Joy” (Surprised by Joy, etc). And the truth is, only One can fill this longing. My son is only two, but I can even see it building…
Keep loving that little one, Jonathan.
Just so sweet and so true. I will be praying for Aydn and that his void is filled with the Spirit. Really, we were all given that void when we were created. It’s reserved for God alone. It’s just that some of us think we’ve filled it with other things and ignore it, while Aydn embraces it and longs for it. God will honor that. I just know it. Thanks for the reminder!
Thank you for the prayers, Loretta. An important piece of this journey! Yes, we all have that void, don’t we? Sometimes it’s more apparent than others. But it’s there, just the same.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Knowing our value is the life long story of redemption…to return to our understanding of how things ARE.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Praying Adyn knows that he’s more valuable than he could possibly imagine.
Thank YOU, Kristie, for all the ways you love on little ones. You are doing such a beautiful thing.
That was so beautiful. I remember you telling about those three children coming into your family at the Cowgirl Get Together in January in Tyler, and have kept up with you on Facebook since. I love seeing how the children are growing, not only in size, but in healing from what they went through. But this, oh this just brought tears to my eyes. A hundred I love you’s may turn into a thousand I love you’s, but thank God you and your husband were there for him and his sisters. Some day, he will know and then the void will be filled. Til then, just keep on doing what you’re doing because you’re doing it right! You’re an awesome lady and I hope to hear you speak again!
Hi, Susan. Good to see one of my cowgirl friends here. 🙂 Thank you for the sweet encouragement and insight!
I hope you do treat me as one of your fans. I love all your posts. I will say as many I love you’s to the posts as I can! The post touched my heart like a rose with very little thorns. Its almost like even I am like your son, or everyone is like a child and needs reassurance from God all the time but we are nothing in front of him!
This is beautiful. Yes, I’ve attempted many times to find value by looking at the world and each time I do I am left feeling empty and disappointed. Thank you for this reminder to keep focused on His truth.
Great advice Michele.. I forwarded this to my wife. We have only 1 7 year old and doing ALL homework before small group, and eating, and playing piano has to be done before we go outside. This is a very important lesson you mention here. We will take heed to your wisdom, and the family approach is warranted.