Yesterday, getting ready to leave the house on an errand that my preteen daughter did not want to go on, I told her that the HUGE stuffed animal she was planning to bring had to stay home. I was tired of her leaving it and retracing our steps to find it. I took the squashable stuffed mint green owl and plopped it onto the couch and watched it fall off. She said that she hated me and that I was mean. “You threw my stuffed animal on the ground and it landed on it’s FACE and you don’t EVEN CARE!”
As we got in the car and began our journey, I tried to reason with her. I tried to help her see logic. I then tried to help her see that I am the Mom and she is not. She, in turn, let me know repeatedly that I was not measuring up to her standard of what it means to be in a relationship with her. In her mind, I was not the Mom I was supposed to be. In my mind, I was talking to God while she raged on. “Why God? Why is she saying this? Am I not good to her? Do I not love her enough? I need You to show me what to do. I’m in over my head with this parenting business. How am supposed to be a mother and a father to this child?! What do I say back to her? I am at a loss.”
As a mother with a fourth child, I have finally learned the importance of taking a break from an upset child who is looking for a reaction. So after my errands, I drove toward my sister’s house 5 minutes away, planning to take a walk there. I deposited my child on the couch at her house with a requirement that she not move until she was done making a ruckus. I made a cup of coffee while the wailing continued. In my head, I continued my conversation with God. “She is testing every boundary I have, God! I need a break. I don’t have answers here! Why aren’t You giving me answers?! Don’t you even CARE about me?!!” My sister came out of her room wearing a sleeping bag. I laughed and snapped a pic. She slumped to the kitchen floor to relax and chat with me as my coffee brewed.
We discussed the situation at hand…the wailing child on her couch, my desire to take a walk. She told me about an article she read that said to tune into what a child is feeling when they are upset. The child is no longer capable of logic and must have their feelings understood so they can reach a point of lucidity and step out of the tantrum. So, taking her advice, I went to my squalling child and tried to use understanding words. I quickly gave up and let her know that if she wanted to continue to fuss, it was her choice. My sister urged me to go walk, so I set out the door determined to get into a better frame of mind.
Around the twenty minute mark, I looked out over a pond and saw the sunset. The thought entered my mind, “Did I just yell at God and tell Him that He doesn’t care about me?” I was struck by the resemblance my daughter had to me. Do I blame God, my Father, when my day or even my LIFE is not turning out like I think it should? When I struggle, I just want God to make life feel good again. I want Him to do everything to make me happy. It is easy for my daughter to blame me when she is upset, but it is just as easy for me to place blame on my Father in heaven.
Our lives are not easy and we just want things to be easy so badly! We want our life to make sense. We want simple equations like “If I do good things, then I will get good things.” But as we live life, we meet people who defy that logic. I have a friend who worked hard to be good at basketball and then ended up paralyzed from the neck down. I know another man whose little daughter died while he was a Pastor trying hard to help others with their daily lives. I developed lead poisoning at 21 years of age from scraping paint on the apartment I was preparing to live in as a newlywed. We were all working hard to achieve something good and trying not to hurt others in the process. We all ended up in a dark place where we felt abandoned and rejected by God. Was this a “good” place to be? Would any of us have chosen this path at the time?
During our darkness, we felt like God was letting our hearts burn into a pile of ashes. How could this ever cause anything “good”? There was nothing left to salvage and none of us could see any good in the suffering at the time, but each of us came to a place where we realized that we could choose to trust God anyway. Decades later, we can all see that these dark times were a period of life where God was doing something “good” in each of us. We each chose to live life accepting that we are not in charge. Not being in control of our life is a good thing because the One in charge is worthy of our trust. He is the God who raises the dead to life and turns ashes into beauty!
Last night, my sister talked with my daughter while I was on that walk. She used her God-given ability to tune into the emotions of others and reach my daughter in that dark emotional place she inhabited. When I returned from my walk, this child, the one I could not reach, was laughing and playing a game with my sister. I can’t even describe how grateful I felt in that moment…toward my sister, but also toward my God who listens to my cries and answers my prayers. He may not answer in the exact moment I want and He may not always have the answer I want, but I can always trust Him to have the answer I need.
Though he slay me, I will hope in him.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.