She is raging and kicking and screaming, and I am done.
I simply asked my three-year-old daughter, adopted just a few months prior, to wash her hands.
As she melted into a puddle on the bathroom floor, I stood there for several seconds before I felt like swirling waters mixed with equal parts irritation, confusion and exhaustion flooded my body.
As the weeks have turned to months, and the tantrums have waned and then picked back up again, I have found myself struggling to help our daughter through these moments in a connected way. It's hard to love, to choose love over and over and over again when the person standing before you acts so unlovely.
My husband, though, he's on it in a way I couldn't have understood had I not witnessed it with my own eyes. And what began as a high-stress moment slowly morphed into something my heart could not have prepared for but needed desperately all the same.
As soon as she loses it, he scoops up her little body, all kicking and screaming 30-some pounds of her, and he wraps her tightly in a bear hug so she cannot hurt herself or him.
At first she is livid, and she fights him with all her might, but he is stronger and wiser and kind. And he's not letting go, so she's not going any further down the spiral.
It's several minutes before she begins to calm and before much time passes, she is sitting and just whimpering a bit on his lap, wrapped in a hug, safely secured in the arms of her daddy.
Me, I grit my teeth, and I bear these tantrums by repeating over and over, I'll keep you safe until you're back in control. But my husband, he is tender, and he does it with a love that overflows. I can literally feel the love radiating from his body simply by standing in the same small room.
And she is melted but not from melting down.
After a few more moments of crying and trying to kick and hit, she is snuggled against his chest, her head resting beneath his chin. She begins to use her words, and they work through the audacity that was the hand-washing request.
When the hands are scrubbed, she smiles broadly, takes her father's hand and begins to dance around to the tail end of a song playing on my phone while holding his hand in her own.
It's not enough, though, that she's dancing on the floor next to him. Next, she's pulling at his arm so he will scoop her up and dance with her in his arms.
Of course, he obliges, and she is smiling and singing and glowing.
Because she isn't just tolerated; she is loved.
And she isn't just loved in word.
She is completely enveloped in his love.
She is bathing in every bit of his delight for her; she can feel it.
She can feel it, and I can see it even though she doesn't completely understand it.
The song switches, and with the switch I can feel the Spirit well inside of me and whisper to me the very lyrics of the new song:
"Oh, how He loves us."
As I watch my husband sway with our small daughter in his arms, delighting over her, I am watching her be delighted in. And I know, too, that my Father is saying, "I delight in you much like the way your husband delights in her. None of your temper tantrums or meltdowns or failures change the way I feel about you. Because you are my daughter. You are loved simply because I am your Father. And that's what Fathers do."
Our little girl, she smiles wide, and she reaches out her hand to me, "Mommy dance, too?"
Something shifts in my heart
from performance to grace
from toleration to delight
from self-seeking to loving
because in that moment I, too, feel the delight of a daughter
dancing in her Father's embrace.
And the loved?
They simply love in return
out of sheer abundance.