We play this game, my family and I.
I stole the game from a pastor who shared his family tradition in his talk.
Well, it begins as more of an affirmation, less of a game. But there's a point at which the affirmation becomes so rooted, so familiar on the tongue in your home that it begins to be played with and jumbled and laughed about. Because it is so embraced. Everyone feels so embraced.
It goes like this. Let's say I was kneeling next to my son's bed during bedtime, just like I did tonight.
It doesn't have to be his birthday. But today is. His sixth, to be exact.
And normally, I'm not scrambling for something to say in order to mask my shy tears for how six years ago, I labored until I could hold his just under eight-pound frame, and the wonder at how his bony legs now reach so far down his Star Wars sheets. But I was.
I began, "If God lined up all the boys in the whole wide world...
even the really fast ones,
and the ones who never got in trouble in class,
and ones who could put together really hard Lego sets without help,
every little six year old boy with every color hair and eyes,
I'd choose you.
And if we had a really bad week, and I got another try, I'd choose you.
And if you did something - the worst thing you can think of - I'd look at all the boys in that long, long line,
And I'd choose you."
But my son isn't surprised at all. He is laughing because he said "You'd choose me!" two minutes ago, as soon as the words started to come out of my mouth. The sentiment is so familiar it has become a game. Then he grabs his stuffed animal, as he usually does, and plays the game with his much-loved friend. "If God lined up all da dogs...." and on he plays.
And once in a while, when we play this in his room in the glow of his nightlight, he slips his skinny arm around my neck and says with gleaming eyes, "If God lined up all da mommies in da hold wide world (grinning ear to ear, dramatically pausing)....I'd choose you, Mama."
All of it swells with love more than I can contain, so it presses up, welling in my eyes and widening my smile. I shake my head, not knowing how I deserve all this goodness. Knowing that I really don't.
As if that isn't enough, Jesus whispers from the corners of this game, every time. I hear his voice echoing mine, as a parent, to me. "I choose you." I say it to my child, and I hear it as a child, whispering in this rhythm of love.
Over and over, "I choose you."
We all sleep easy in the embrace.