The Tender Kiss
When my son was very young, so tender in age that his list of spoken words measured less than a bakers dozen, he taught me a lesson about the nature of true love.
At that time, I worked as an outside saleswoman and spent my days jumping in and out of my car. My husband was terminally ill, but healthy enough at the time to stay home and take care of our son. I remember pushing my feet into my panty hose each day with a rush of anger. More days than not, I was tired, frustrated and hostile. Underneath the defensive feelings, I was afraid of what might lay ahead. During my pregnancy, before the cancer diagnosis, I had imagined motherhood would entail my wearing pearls and enriching my son’s life with reading and field trips. Instead life handed me what I considered a lemon, and most days I was not in the mood for lemonade. In fact, my soul paddled frantic dark-river dreams at night and my body felt a decade older than it really was. It may have been the prime of my life, but my spirits were not in prime shape. In retrospect, I am so thankful for the years my late husband spent shaping and molding our fine son. His handiwork is clearly evident in the sterling young man that exists today. I’m glad he packed into those early years the daily influence and lessons that he would not be available to offer later. I suppose that is a quick study in trusting the troubles of today to yield potential gold tomorrow. But that is another story.
One hot August day I came home dusted dry by the Oklahoma heat. I plopped down on the couch too tired to talk to my husband or even hug my chubby toddler, just nodded to them both and stared at the TV. My body ached with the stress of unclosed sales and unpaid bills. My boy came over and started pulling at my shoes. “What are you doing baby?” I asked with some irritation, pushing him away gently with the side of my foot. “Leave Mommy alone, she’ll play with you later.” But he was not to be stopped and he persisted in struggling with the buckles on my shoes until he had freed my tired and weary feet. Then he tried to pull off my panty hose, stretching out the toes with a look of total determination on his soft, rounded face, lips puckered up with just the tip of his pink tongue poking out in concentration. I laughed softly, and reached down to pick him up, but he pushed my hands away firmly.
And then the miracle happened.
He gave up the pantyhose battle and took one of my feet into both of his hands and began to kiss the toes, each one carefully. Then he kissed the tops of my feet, and the bottoms too. After careful attention to each foot he looked up at me with clear blue eyes shining with love tendered compassionately.
Pure radiant unconditional love.
And I understood that he was kissing my feet as I had kissed his tiny, precious toes a thousand times. He had seen my weary soul and knew the emotion of love was the healing balm I desperately needed, and he must have remembered the package it came in. What mother doesn’t grab her babies feet and shower them with kisses, linger on each tiny toe, kiss the tops and brush the bottoms of their feet with her lips? They are divine chocolate morsels for every mother, sought out hungrily from the first moment the baby is placed into her arms.
Then I remembered the story of Jesus walking all day, bone-tired from the burdens of his mission. I could imagine him arriving at the home of a friend and sitting down in the chair, all dusty and weary in mind, body and spirit. I can picture his burdens so heavy that he must have bailed buckets of tears in his dreams at night. I can just smell the kitchen odors and hear the sound of the women busy cooking up a feast for their visiting king.
This was a proper group of women, trying to be humble and impressive all at the same time. Then I can feel Jesus’ startled surprise when one woman kneels before him and quietly removes his dusty sandals from his weary feet and begins to soothe them with ointment and tender touches. She must have looked up at him with eyes of pure love.
Well, the other women clucked their tongues and got a bit jealous when the quiet efforts of a single woman outshone their elaborate group gestures. When the women cried out in tones of righteous indignation, he gently scolded them a bit; reminding them that true love is not found in the flashy show of a gesture, but it is housed in the intention behind the action. It was her tender, unconditional loving actions, performed without a desire to receive praise, but with a desire to give praise that served the Lord that day.
Christ must have simply been thankful for the true love of human kindness overflowing from her hands onto his feet and into his tired soul. I can imagine it clearly because so many years ago, I too was touched by true love.
I wonder if that’s why Christ so often reminded us that we should be like children. Perhaps he meant to be childlike in the way we give love, to remember the purity of giving that sits inside each one of us, ready to pour from our fingertips into the souls of others.
In the growing sanctuary of mother love: I wrote this some years ago, I share it as mother’s day approaches. Today Chris is a young man, succeeding at life with the same kind heart he held when little. Kelly, Wayne’s daughter is a beautiful grown woman newly married to Dave, a great man and they are full with all that the future holds. Her mother Linda has let me share in the years of her upbringing, and I am thankful for that chance. My mate and sweetheart Jim, has added his own smart and inspiring kids to my life, Kara and Matt, both of them thriving and amazing young people preparing for college when we met, now both have growing careers and fruitful adult lives. Below is a picture from our wedding on 08-08-08. Megan and Matt Tilly married just a year ago and she is a treasure and a whipper snapper, and we adore Kara’s boyfriend Matt with all his smarts (although two Matt’s can be confusing I know!) And finally there is Sheba, who is our four-legged beloved, who thank goodness (and with the promise of a warm bed, love and food) will never grow up to leave home.
In this new unit of family, love keeps expanding ten-fold. And I begin the dream in every mother’s heart, that the grand-unborn souls in waiting are coming, approaching my waiting arms. I long for them, I dream of their toes which I will kiss. In the waiting, I cherish all the children that I get to love, not only by birth, but by heart.
This is grace unfolding.