“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7: 9-11, NIV)
I realize lately I draw the majority of illustrations about the mysterious relationship between heaven and earth, God and His people, Christ and the church from my experiences as a parent. I think there is something to be said for using what you know to understand what you can’t but I also think there is something different about caring for a child that you deeply and desperately love that explains so much more about the access we are granted to the throne room of God. (This doesn’t mean you have to be the child’s biological parent, but an invested caregiver.)
Any of you who have met my 20 month old son, Soren, know that he is a big guy for his age. He talks up a storm and is learning things like how to count and his colors. Truthfully as a mom, nothing is more satisfying than teaching him something over and over and over and finally seeing it click. Just the other week he started occasionally saying “scuse me” when he walked too close to someone else. You would think he had just cured Parkinson’s with how proud I was. The idea of manners had begun to click and without our prompting he took it upon himself to be polite. Awesome. But with this advancement in toddler-hood comes the tantrums that inevitably pock-mark perfectly good days.
Lately our trial has been patience, mine with him and his with me. If he wants something he wants it now, not later. He has no concept of the fact that when he wants water, and I say OK, that I cannot simply conjure water out of thin air. Or when he’s hungry and I’m making him macaroni and cheese, it actually requires time to cook. It is exhausting to explain that I said I would get him water or lunch and simply because he doesn’t have it in that instant doesn’t mean I really said “no.” It is my pleasure to give him the things that are good for him, but sometimes he can’t have them in that moment. It’s even more fun for me to give him something he would totally want and didn’t even know was coming. The joy is all over the place because giving good gifts, even small ones, is how I say “I love you.”
But the times happen time and again when he doesn’t seem to remember that he ate the rest of the blueberries, or he ate all the crackers for today, or perhaps that nap time is necessary. The indignant attitude and seeming rage over the necessary things, like brushing teeth and taking naps, over-shadows any previous fun or gifts. What’s more is he will actually put himself in danger (i.e. falling out of his high-chair, walking down a steep set of steps, swallowing a bite that’s too big) in order to defy me and prove he can do it himself if I’m not going to placate him in the moment.
I recently had a really tough day and cried out to God asking what to do with a toddler who only trusts me when there is something in it for him and even then, he can be suspicious. The only answer I got was “love” and a perfectly clear realization of the fact I am the exact same way with God. If I want it, I want it now. If I don’t get it, I will prove I can do it on my own.
The thing is just as my toddler has no concept of the time it takes to make macaroni and cheese, I don’t have any concept of the process that is happening to make my hopes and desires and even needs come to fruition. But I have to trust they will be there. They always have been because He is a father who loves to give good gifts to His children and in return we need to wait patiently. And then we need to be grateful because he loves us on the days we are neither patient nor polite.
Ali can be reached via email here.