Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"At Least They're Old Enough to Reason With"

Many years ago when my sister-in-law had her first baby, we headed down to visit when the baby was about six months old.  It was a twelve hour drive, but we threw our two and a half year old and one year old in their carseats and made the trip.  When we were getting ready to leave, we invited my brother and his wife to come visit us soon.

"Ah," they said, "It's such a long drive.  And with a baby....  At least yours are old enough to reason with..."

We managed to make it to the car before we snorted in laughter.  They're new parents... they're new....

We drove about eight hours and then were on a narrow road - two lanes on each side that went on straight for three hours without even a town or gas station or side road to pull off into.  The kids were fussy, and for distraction, we gave the oldest a quarter and told him he could use it when we stopped, if he was good, to buy a candy.

Well, the inevitable happened, and about two minutes later, he dropped it.

It was literally the end of his world.

He wailed.  He screamed.  He began screaming at the top of his lungs between huge, body-wracking sobs, "I WANT MY BIG MONEY!  I WANT MY BIG MONEY!"  Big, you know, as opposed to the pennies he had owned before...

There was no place to pull over.  Not even a place to safely slow down.  I had no other quarters.  There was nothing else to do.

Did I mention that this particular kid is the most like me and is incredibly stubborn and insistent?

He wailed on.  And on.

Finally, about ten minutes in, my husband turned to me and calmly said, "We could try reasoning with him."

That phrase has helped both of us make it through many other temper tantrums by tired toddlers. Got to laugh if you are going to survive parenthood.

Then there are days that I think God feels like a parent of a toddler when He deals with us.  In fact, I am sure of it.

And when I get too worked up to be reasoned with, He calmly sits back.  He doesn't try to answer me then.  If anything, He sends in a hug or a shoulder to lean on - see, He's a better parent than me and doesn't lose His cool and occasionally snap at a out-of-control toddler. 

But mostly He waits until I have finished howling.

Then, and only then, when I am calm, He speaks.  And calm, I hear Him.

This last Sunday, sitting in church, trying to focus, God just gently asked me some questions.

Have I been there for you through the last years as you've lived under this anger?

Have I been able to carry you?  Be your strength?  Be your dignity? Have I enabled you to live in it well?

Yes.  He has.  It's been long and tough.  It's been harder as I was also trying to work through my own pain from hurts in my past and heal in a pressure cooker of anger.  But He was there, and He was enough.

Even if nothing changes, will I be there for you and be your strength and hope in your situation?

Yes.  He will be.  He doesn't change, and I have no reason to doubt His commitment to me.

So what are you afraid of?  There is nothing that is going to happen that will change the fact that I will always be there for you and will continue to be your strength.

Hmm.  Hadn't actually thought of that.  I'd been so focused on what bad could happen and how that would be like.  And it is true - bad could happen....  but God will still be there.  He's seen me through what has been.  He'll be there for what will be.

I  could actually physically feel the tension leave my body, and I rested.

I thought back to a passage in Hebrews that came to mind when I said I feel like someone shook my world, and I am falling with nothing stable.  It says that God will once more shake the heavens so that what is shaken will be gone and what is unshakeable will remain.

I may feel that my world is all shook up, but I have still something that is stable - unshakeable, firm.

God, who has been there for me, is here with me, and will be there for me in what is to come.

And I was at peace.  He just had to wait for me to stop howling and wailing before He spoke calmly to my heart.

Just like when my son calmed down, I was able to tell him that his big money was on the floor of the car and when we stopped, he could pick it up and still buy his candy.

Sadly, all that wailing wore him out, and he was asleep when we passed the next gas station,
 and you know the unbreakable rule of toddlers in a moving vehicle -

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