The other day a friend of mine posted a photo of his little girl. She’s just a few weeks shy of three, darling as all get out and has a smile that lights up a room. In this particular picture, however, the little beauty was sprawled out in her velvet dress with her back against the concrete. From the lack of focus on her legs, she was obviously flailing her sparkly Mary Jane covered feet while clutching her hands to her chest and crying bitterly.
“Wasn’t allowed to dig a hole in the front yard,” the caption said.
I died… laughing.
If you’re a parent, you’re probably like me where, you see this photo, and your mind starts recalling all those ridiculous things that send kids to their knees:
“Brother pushed the elevator button first.”
“He was told he couldn’t pea on the front porch anymore.”
“She was told she had to put on pants if she wanted to go outside and play with her friends.”
“A blue bubblegum came out of the vending machine… she wanted red.”
“We asked her to not throw the cat against the wall.”
The only reason our kiddos freak out over these ‘non-issues’ is because they don’t get the ‘why’. They are so focused on self – and self wants what it wants when it wants it. Right? So, when they don’t get their way and they can’t understand why… well, all hell breaks loose.
The thing about this photo, however, is while it’s a picture of a little girl acting out… what came to mind (after I laughed about it) was this: Father, this is what you must see in me when I lose my self-control.
If I’m not careful, my self-control is easily whipped out the window and I throw an adult tantrum:
I can get critical…
I can get demanding…
I can withdraw…
I can get mean…
And, worst of all, I can start to doubt that the One who’s telling me ‘no’ really loves me and is for me – and my doubt makes me want to clench my fists, bite someone, and push the Big Bully out of the way.
It’s how our kids feel when they hear no, isn’t it? They feel we’re not for them… they feel we’re withholding something really good… they feel we just ‘don’t get it’. They see us as these great big bullies that just want to ruin their fun and prevent them from doing amazing things.
But that’s not a parent’s heart. We parents don’t say ‘no’ because we’re malicious… we say ‘no’ to things because we have perspective and maturity. We’ve lived enough life to know what hurts and what’s wrong – and, when we say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ even, it’s because we LOVE our kids – and we recognize that ‘no’ is part of the training that will help them grow up into responsible, thoughtful, other-centered, gracious, loving human beings.
Jesus once said, “Which of you, if your child 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!”
I am not a perfect parent… sheesh, I’m not a perfect anything. But what this verse tells me is that if I, even with my faults and baggage and pride, want good for my babies – how much more does my perfect God want my good.
This is what I remind myself when I start to doubt His love or His presence in the ‘no’ or ‘not now’. This is what I speak when I’m on my knees, lost and confused and weeping over why my great idea has been shut down by the hand of God. I say, “Father – I am yours… I don’t like ‘no’ and I don’t understand why I can’t have my way, but thank you for your faithfulness… and thank you I can trust that ‘no’ (or ‘not yet’) is for my good. I turn my eyes off myself and onto You – help me to see You clearly in this… and do the work in me this ‘no’ is meant to accomplish.”
Don’t get me wrong: this self-control thing is stinky hard and IT. TAKES. WORK. Seriously – it takes WORK. It’s HARD not to follow my pride. It’s HARD to respond to mean people with love. It’s HARD to respond to irrational situations with patience. It’s hard to be vulnerable and be childlike in His presence.
But GOD… peeps, I tell you with all my heart: when I have the wherewithal and control to forgo the tantrum (and all the nastiness that comes with it) and instead call on Him for help, HE SHOWS UP.
He HEARS, He RESPONDS, He gives me strength and endurance and peace that, seriously, blows my mind. (And, if you know me personally and know my history, self-control is not in my blood.) When I look for Him in the ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, He, without fail, distracts me from the bitterness and anger that threatens to take over when I don’t get my way… and, yes, I’m kept off the ground clutching my hands to my chest as I cry bitterly.
Just as our goal as parents is to raise kids that can stand tall and face this harsh world – how much more does our Father want to mold us into bright, glorious, gracious people for His kingdom. If you’re hearing ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ today, think on these things. Seek Him. Ask Him. TRUST HIM. He’s never failed me – ever.
Thanks for being here… thanks for reading.
(Next time: a few things I learned in the dark while buying our house. I hope you’ll subscribe and stick around!)