It’s a foggy morning here in Tennessee and my boys are still sleeping. Sam’s school is closed today for road conditions, and the big boys’ school starts two hours late. But birds are chirping cheerfully outside, which always makes me feel like Spring is just around the corner — a wonderful thought. I’ve never been to Tennessee in the Spring and I am looking forward to taking it all in.
This morning I’ve been thinking about what a gift it is to be a parent. My life is enriched in millions of ways by my boys; they are a treasure and a delight and yet in other ways very challenging. The parent-child dynamic can give us tremendous insight into our relationship with God. If you have more than one child, then you understand that your love isn’t a finite pie that’s divided up among your children. No, we have enormous capacity to love each child with unquenchable adoration and concern. How much more then can our omniscient, omnipresent God love each one of us?
Of course there are lots of ways our relationship with our kids can reflect our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Yesterday school was cancelled and Nate wanted to go to open gym to shoot hoops. Before we left I walked him over to the French doors that lead to our patio. I showed him the ice accumulating on the glass-topped table. I told him many times on the short drive there to be very, very cautious. I pulled up to the curb, reiterated again to be careful, and I then watched my sweet and usually obedient little twelve year old, briskly walk on the ice-covered sidewalk, then inexplicably “jog” toward the building. Sure enough, he slipped, legs flying high into the air, and down he crashed directly on his tailbone.
I jumped out of the car, walked carefully on the grass toward Nate, wondering why on earth he just plain ignored by many pleas. But I bet God often feels a lot like I did in that moment. My Child, He says, I told you not to do that. Don’t you see? I’m not trying to keep you from good things. I’m trying to protect you from harm. Don’t you trust me? Don’t you believe I know what’s best?
Part of being a child is making and then learning from mistakes, but part of growing up is also recognizing that trusting and obeying a parent is an important aspect of expressing love.
Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23-24). He’s not exactly being vague. It’s pretty much a smack down. If you love God, you will obey Him. Where in your life does that truth leave a mark? I think if we are honest, we all have areas where it just plain stings.
In my prayer journal there’s a piece by Elisabeth Elliot which talks about doing what God says. She imagines a conversation with the Lord and hearing these words, “Do [what I say] when you understand it; do it when you don’t understand it. Take what I give you; be willing to not have what I do not give you. The very relinquishment of this thing that you so urgently desire is a true demonstration of the sincerity of your lifelong prayer: Thy will be done.”
This surrender of what I do not have is apt for me right now. Because I thought I had this whole transition thing pretty well planned out. I’d jump with both feet into community. I’d go to Bible study and have lunch dates and get involved at school. Instead I’ve been home, from my perspective way too much. I was home for a month with the big boys. Then Sam was sick last week (no Bible study or social time for me), and this week he’s had one abbreviated day of school. I love being with him — he’s the world’s best cuddler and he is such an interesting little conversationalist. The other day he asked me if you committed a crime but weren’t caught for years and years and years, could you still go to jail. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had occasion to explain the concept of statute of limitations and when they apply to my older boys, but that’s Sam — a deep, slow processor. Everyday he asks nuanced questions that reveal just how much he’s been thinking about something.
But still, I’d like to get into a routine, to feel connected in our new place. It is a challenge for me to trust that being home this much is what’s best for me. It doesn’t feel like what’s best for me. But part of loving and obeying God is trusting Him, trusting that this little season, while not like I envisioned it, is what’s best for me.
So I leave you with two questions: (1) Where are you failing to express your love for God in obedience? and (2) Where are you failing to trust God by refusing to relinquish what you do not have?
Because I can promise you, given the limitations and frailty of our fallen little minds, Our Father does know best.