I’m no Biblical scholar, but there is one verse I really love. I love the idea that two people, deeply intertwined with one another would make the other better. I love that these two people are compared to iron – they are strong. Tough as nails, even. They do not change easily. This takes work. This takes love.
Sharpening iron. It’s what we do with our kitchen knives. Sharpening them, bringing back their luster and shine, removing flaws and polishing away blemishes. Making them better than what they were.
There was a time in my life that I thought this verse just had to do with friendships – the refining and molding that comes from people challenging and encouraging you.
Then there was a time when I thought this verse was meant for marriage. Because oh, marriage will expose your weaknesses and a loving marriage will refine you in so many ways.
But now? Now I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this Proverb was meant for Mommas and Daughters.
Isn’t it so obvious? I see it when I look at my mother and I. But it took having a daughter of my own to make that view clear to me.
I am six and the report card says I spend too much time talking to my friends and not enough time listening. She gently reminds me the importance of respecting my teacher and begins in that moment to teach me how to balance life. That there is a time to work hard and pay attention, and a time to be silly, and a time to listen. There is time for all of these things – and she has taught me how to discern these moments. She is making me thoughtful.
I am twelve and I. Need. That. Thing. at Limited Too. It is too expensive (or was it too hideous?) She lovingly resists my pleas and saves me not only from a (probable) fashion disaster but from a mentality that material things are what matters. She shows me in these moments that my stuff does not define me – all the while teaching me the hard to swallow lesson that I won’t always get what I want, when I want it. She is keeping me grounded.
I am nineteen and sick, so sick, in my dorm room at college. She hears the weakness in my voice and makes the four hour drive to take me to the doctor where I am put on IV fluids as a result of a terrible virus. She shows me in these moments what it is to love selflessly. She has taught me what it takes to be a momma. She has shown me unconditional love.
She is moments old and I ask if she is okay. Her heart rate was dropping. The cord was around her neck. I still haven’t seen her but all I need in that moment is for her to keep crying. To assure my worried ears that her lungs are working. I am a new person in this moment, unconcerned about the doctors stitching me back together or the bright lights of the operating room glaring down on us. She is making me selfless.
She is six months old and will not sleep without me near. I have to get up early for work the next day but I grab a blanket and a pillow and lay down on the floor next to her crib so I can easily reach up and rub her hurting tummy when she begins to stir. I will be tired the next day. My body will ache. But this moment is all that matters. She is teaching me patience and endurance. She is making me strong.
She is sixteen months old and everything is a discovery. We celebrate it all – correctly identifying her nose, successfully transporting yogurt on a spoon from the bowl to her mouth, saying the word, “shoosh” (shoes) and pointing to her feet. She runs to me with joy and I know what is is to be needed. She forces me to slow down, soak up small moments, and to see the world through her eyes. She has shown me unconditional love.
Clack, swoosh, clack, swoosh. Sharpen & shine, sharpen & shine. Mothers refining daughters who in turn refine their mothers.
And with it all: Unconditional Love.