A drive.

This is something my own mother and I would do during my stormy teenage years. I wasn’t the child I suspect my mother was expecting me to be. In many ways, we were and continue to be polar opposites.We rarely saw eye to eye We rarely saw eye to eye. Where she loved school and was desperate to please, I nearly missed graduating with my class because—alternately out of spite and indifference—I was failing so terribly. Everything she seemed to care about I couldn’t understand, and vice versa. Between butting heads about grades, my future and my friends, we would find ourselves in her car just driving. Sometimes, we listened to music; sometimes, it was silent. Rarely did we really talk; deep conversations just couldn’t happen for us at the time. But of all the memories I have of my childhood, those are among my favorite, and I make sure to tell her that fact often. I want so much to find the same meaning in the drives I take with my own daughter.

How can a parent fully explain their love for their child? Honestly, it is impossible. That love is so powerful, so deep, that the only time your child will truly understand it is when they have a child of their own. So I can only trust that the correct aspect of our love as parents is felt in the way they need it most—when they need security, that they know we are their fortress. When they need defending, we are their army. When they need to feel loved, we are that fathomless source of warmth. And when they need distance, we trust them enough to let them go. I just don’t always know how to give all I can give. So I was thrilled when our only daughter asked me shyly if we, just she and I, could go for a drive.

Our daughter, who is 14, is our peacemaker. She is the one who comforts her younger siblings, who messages her older brother words of encouragement, who will go above and beyond to befriend the friendless and ease another’s worry. She feels things so deeply, and I ache when I see her question herself or feel down. She is gentle, and sometimes, I just don’t know how to console her.

So when she quietly approaches me and asks if we can go for a drive, I drop what I am doing and grab the keys. We get in the car, and she puts on a song that she wants me to hear, and she relaxes and the weight of being a sensitive teenager in a world that is sometimes overwhelming is lifted. We look at buildings and lights; we drive through the local college campuses, through parks. Sometimes, we talk, but mostly, we drive in a silence that is not at all awkward or forced. Occasionally, we comment on a house or a dog we pass, or we hop out to get a picture of some public art or graffiti.

We drive for an hour—sometimes a bit more—just being with each other, no questions asked. It seems like such a silly thing, but it has done more for me as a parent than I can really express; I feel closer with my child than ever before. I feel she knows she can come to me. She knows I just want to be with her, even if it’s in the form of aimless wandering around our city, before she is swept away by her own life. Most importantly, though, she knows that I love her.

We are often told, as Jews that G‑d is our Father and our King. Oddly, in my mind, it is easier to accept G‑d as a king than as a father. A king is expected to be powerful, distant, unapproachable. He is unfathomable. How can we possibly understand our Creator, who is beyond the tools we have for measuring and is outside of even the brightest mind’s comprehension? To add to the sense of awe and fear, our King is also our Judge, Who sees all and weighs every moment of our day. He gave us commandments that are our connection in this world, guidelines for all aspects of our lives through which we become partners in His creation. We go before Him and plead for Him to forgive our transgressions, our failures as a person and as a people, and we beg that we be given another chance, to be the people that He wants us to be. To have a taste of the unknowable-ness of G‑d is to understand awe and fear.

But that’s not the limit of our relationshipThat’s not the limit of our relationship with Him. Where kings are by definition separate and distant, fathers are near. They are our firm guides and our gentle comfort; they are a source of unmeasurable love. I believe that for me—for all of us—to have a deep relationship with G‑d, there must develop a relationship that embraces both the Father and the King. My becoming and growing as a Jew began with my struggle to recognize G‑d. Once I realized and acknowledged who the Creator of all is, I allowed myself to accept His commandments and His dominion, and began to develop a relationship with Him as that Judge and Ruler.

But just as I am often unsure as to how to connect to my teenage children, I am also at a bit of a loss as to how to make this connection to this Father—a connection I believe is vital to our mission, our well-being and our understanding of who we are. I can stand before Him with fear. I can marvel at His creation. I can feel the cold of the separation that grips me when I fail as a Jew. But how do I love or feel love when it can be so easily dismissed as a simple trick of the mind, a shifting mood, a chemical reaction?

At an early age, I internalized a mistrust of the things I cannot grasp with my own hands. Certainty was the only acceptable goal: “Can you prove it?” I became shy of professing a belief in that which I cannot prove, and while I need no outside proof that I love my family, I could not find, or would not accept, proof that G‑d loves me as an individual. I can only want or trust that He does. But trust is so tied to emotion, and emotion and belief can slip through the concrete and measurable like mist through a forest. How do I understand not only that this personal love exists, but that I am worthy of it? Where does one even begin?

So a relationship must be built. I have to see the miracle that surrounds me as not only a miracle for the world, but as a miracle for me. If G‑d is extending a hand, so to speak, to me as a cherished individual, then I must take the chance and seek to grasp it, even at the risk of never being able to “prove” it.

Which makes me think that the drives I take with my daughter are perhaps one of the best things that could have happened to me. As we roll along in silence, the knowledge that we are mother and daughter is obviously unspoken. Who needs to say it? It is known. The knowledge that I love my child is also clear in this silence; it doesn’t need to be spelled out or dropped like a ton of bricks. I am present. I have made a space in my day for this relationship. I have made time for this. I ask nothing from her, and she asks nothing from me more than to just be for a bit. There will be time later for questions, for deeper discussions, for laughter and even arguing. Love doesn’t need to be loud and close. In its truest form, it is a comfortable silence.

I see G‑d all around me—in the direction myI see G‑d all around me life has gone, in the people who have come in and out of my life. I am stubborn, but not so stubborn that I will refuse to see that my life has been guided. Surrounding me is the evidence of His love for not only us as a nation but for me as a single, limited creature; an individual Jew that He has crafted not only into existence but for whom He has also built a plan and a purpose and has set in place markers along the way denoting His existence. Little notes, reminders that He is here, and that He will not leave. I live among these miracles but so rarely respond to them beyond acknowledging their existence. While I have always wrestled with G‑d, perhaps it’s time to recognize that I can and should sit still (still in body and mind) with G‑d and contemplate that just as my daughter feels my love in the quiet moments, so should I be open to feeling G‑d’s love.

We live in a loud world, and maybe we have been trained to expect blaring noise and flashing lights, emotions too big and bright to ignore, and that grab us when what we should be tuning in to is the soft reassurances, the taps on the shoulder and the subtle signs left by our Creator in the everyday and in the ordinary.

What my drives with my daughter have taught me is that to begin to build my relationship with our Father, I must carve out time in my day simply to exist in that comfortable silence without the need to say anything, and allow myself, finally, to stop fighting and to feel the gentle warmth of the One who created me and will always be with me.