I hate it when my children are sick: when their normally endless energy is replaced by a whimpering lethargy. When their bleary eyes can muster no enthusiasm for treats or excursions. When I know they are suffering and there’s nothing I can do to make it better.
Except for snuggles. Oh, how I love to snuggle my daughters when they’re sick!
I love to snuggle them anytime, of course, but toddlers are squirmy and busy and generally disinclined to sit in one place for any amount of time. But when they’re sick they come willingly, imploringly for snuggles. They bury their faces in my shoulder and wrap their arms and legs around me, as if physical contact will somehow cool their feverish limbs. They doze and cuddle and listen to lullabies.
And my heart swells with love.
I hate it when they’re sick … But I cherish those sick snuggles more than they will ever know.
That thought gives me pause to consider my relationship with God. Like many people, I tend to seek God out far more fervently when I am in need of comfort than when everything is copacetic. The most difficult times in my life have corresponded, un-coincidentally, with the times in which I have felt closest to God.
I’ve always felt guilty about that.
Why am I able to find the time to sit in silence and listen for God’s word when my spirit is sick, but not when all is well? Shouldn’t I spend as much time thanking God in the land of milk and honey as I spend asking for deliverance from the desert?
Acutely aware of this spiritual weakness, my prayers during those troubled times often begin with an apology: “God, I know I’ve been neglecting you, and I’m sorry I don’t spend as much time with you as I should … But I really need you right now.”
I feel compelled to confess my devotional failures before I venture toward God in supplication–as though my prayers are less valid because they are made under duress …. or as though God will be less inclined to comfort me because I have not sufficiently nurtured our relationship.
But if my experience as a mom is even remotely indicative of the love that God has for us as children, then this is not how God cares for the afflicted.
When my daughters approach me with runny noses and sore throats, seeking sympathy and comfort, I don’t ask them, “Where was this affection when I was taking you to the park or coloring with you?!” I simply gather them into my arms and treasure them.
I want only for them to snuggle in and abide in my love.
So the next time I find myself in need of spiritual comfort, I’ll try to remember that God cherishes any opportunity to lavish me with love. I’ll breathe in the divine essence that surrounds me, knowing that God, too, is breathing me in with an infinite tenderness – a tenderness of which I’ve only had a glimpse in this life, while snuggling my sick children.
Nicole Steele Wooldridge is a friend of Sister Julia’s and mom to a three-year-old and one-year-old. She writes from the Seattle, Washington, area, where the flu season apparently started early this year.