My mama used to cup my face with her small, strong, piano-playing hands, and in her eyes and words I saw my favorite version of myself. She did not let my being a grown-up stop this childhood practice, and I always knew I was about to receive a life-giving dose of affirmation and adoration when she reached for my face.
She thought I was simply amazing and astonishing. With her face pressed in close to mine, she would remind me of who I was, how loved I was, and what great adventures God had for me. She had a knack for doing this when I needed it most, when my insecurities were telling me the opposite, when I craved rest in the assurance of being her beloved.
Although my mama would argue this, I know this didn’t happen because I am actually amazing and astonishing. I get this even more now that I’m a mama myself: she delighted in me because I was hers. She and Dad and God created me and then worked together to form me into who I am and am continually becoming.
About a year after Mama died, I dreamt about her. Much to my dismay, this hadn't happened and still doesn't. Many parts of the dream were chaotic and weird and anxiety-ridden. I ended up sitting on the beach with death and destruction all around me. Suddenly my mama, looking vibrant and healthy in her favorite blue sweater, stood in front of me. I wanted to focus on her, but I was distressed by the awful sights on the beach. So she bent down, placed her hands on my cheeks and blocked out my view of anything but her beautiful face. She spoke urgently, firmly, and seriously even though her eyes were smiling. I desperately wish I could remember her exact words, but I know she was drowning out the chaos with words of affirmation, adoration, and delight.
I carry this image with me. Mama was showing me how my Savior, Jesus, longs to minister to me. He told his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” (John 15:9). He is inviting me to his embrace, to come close enough that he can place his hands on my face and speak to me about who he sees me to be. When I remain in this place, then whatever is happening on the beach cannot sweep me out to sea. I can stay rooted in this true and honest view of myself—the self Jesus thought up, created, and continues to form daily. The self he delights in and adores. The self he rescued from death. While missing my mama has left a giant gap in my identity, she reminded me in that dream that she was just being an extension of Jesus in those face-to-face moments. When I look into his face and hear his words, I can still see my favorite version of myself. And like Mama, Jesus doesn’t do this because of anything I’ve done. He loves me because I’m his.
Jesus reminded his followers later on in John 15 that remaining in his love allows us to follow his instruction: “This is my command: Love each other” (verse 17). When I let Jesus’s face fill my vision, I cannot help seeing others with compassion and love. At times it is hard to accept Jesus’s love for me—especially when I have messed up or stumble over the same struggle that has been tripping me up for as long as I can remember. And at times it is hard to truly love others—especially when they act in a way I deem as unloveable. But I am finding the more I see in Jesus’s eyes that I am his beloved daughter, I am better able to see everyone else with that same love. Imagine how life-giving this could be? I want my husband and sons to see their best selves when they see me look at them. I want my family and friends to know how delighted I am by them when I speak to them. And I want to see strangers the way Jesus would.
Today, my prayer is that you will feel embraced by Jesus’s nail scarred hands, that you will let his love fill your vision, that you will see the you he sees—one worth dying for.