I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: parenthood teaches you way more about God than you ever expected. Perhaps more than you’d like to know at times, right? The old statement “when you know better, you do better” applies to the life of faith as well as life in general, even if it was Dr. Phil or Oprah who said it.
For some time now, I’ve been marinating on an illustration from my parenting—one that sends a literal and spiritual shiver down my spine.
Our son, Isaiah, is tall for his age and always reaching for the next level of what he can swipe off the countertops. No need for a cutesy growth chart at home. I measure his growth by how far back I’m forced to push cooking utensils and dishes on the counter. Currently, I’m nearly out of room!
Several months ago, I found myself embroiled in the usual dinnertime chaos: cranky babies, tired mama, frazzled, and trying to put together a somewhat thoughtful dinner in between refereeing fights over toys and inexplicable crying episodes (theirs, not mine, though sometimes it’s all of us).
As I mumbled frustration to myself while standing at the sink, I turned around and there—through the piping hot squiggles of steam rising from the colander in my hands—I saw Isaiah hopping around with glee, twirling and carefully examining my extra large butcher knife. This knife, this veritable deadly weapon, found its way into his adorably chubby, seeking hands, and I watched as in slow motion while he headed straight into the living room where his sister sat “reading” her books.
I’m not sure I’ve ever leapt so quickly and swiftly in my life—but I think there’s an inner Olympic sprinter that lives in all moms. At that moment, my inner sprinter burst forth, and with a sound that could only be described as Screech Owl-like, I grabbed his arms, steadied his hands, and snatched the knife from around his little fingers.
And what happened next?
He cried and threw himself down as if I’d just stolen his puppy.
He screamed and ran over to the counter where I’d placed the knife—safely out of reach this time—and jumped up and down with fury as he tried to regain control of that darned knife. His eyes narrowed on me with such disdain and as if to say mom, you’re ruining my every happiness!
Yes, that and saving you and your sister from certain maiming and/or death.
When the sickening effects of the adrenalin rush wore off and the tantrum tears abated, I felt the Lord whisper into my heart: child, this is a picture of how you are with Me.
And the thought stopped me in my tracks.
I flipped through the mental catalogue of disappointments throughout my life: the relationships for which I whined and cried, the jobs for which I pitched a little tantrum because I had to have them, or the things taken out of my life for which I stomped and jumped, furiously striving to hold them in my grasp once again … how many of these things were essentially “butcher knives” to my life? My heart? My soul?
Looking back, I would posit most of them. And the times I stubbornly insisted on having my own way, I indeed came away cut up and bruised.
We could all benefit from the beautiful words of Isaiah 55:8-9, reminding us of just how big and knowing God our Father is:
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (NIV).
God our Father is all knowing, all seeing. And just like we, as earthly parents, know and see far beyond what our children do, so God sees all things and all consequences at all times. And He’s about the business of working out a far greater plan than any of us can begin to imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).
Sometimes, I do feel like Isaiah did on that day. There are times when it certainly does feel as though God has taken away my deepest desire or withheld the dreams of my heart or said “no” when I desperately wanted a “yes” … or “yes” when I desperately wanted a “no.”
But it’s in these spaces—these uncomfortable, sometimes dark spaces—where faith finds the opportunity to burst forth and dig down a little deeper. What if we, in the midst of a tantrum, took a moment to step back and give God some room to work? What if we asked Him to give us eyes to see that perhaps the thing to which we’re clinging so longingly is actually a dagger to our very lives?
Again, I am reminded of the beautiful, comforting truth of God’s Word to us:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28 NIV).
I’m finding this verse to be the ultimate “decoder” for life. When I fix my eyes on Jesus and the truth of His word, and when I meditate on the remarkable truth that He is working all things for our ultimate good, then life makes sense—or, on the very worst days—I can at least envision how certain circumstances could make sense in God’s grander scheme.
But the moment I take my eyes off of Him … the moment my mind wanders from the truth of His Word to my own way, well … that’s when my world begins to turn on its head, shake with fury, crumble to the ground. That’s when the doubt, fear, and disappointment rush in with mighty fury. I lose my footing and, like Eve, begin to question, did God really say … ?
That’s a dangerous place to be, for when I’m doubting and pitching toddler-worthy tantrums, I’m essentially flirting with the devil.
[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Romans 12:1 NIV).
Dear reader, may we step out in abandoned faith and trust Him. I don’t know about you, but every inch of my heart longs to have His best, and I don’t want to settle for Plan B or Plan C or beyond, simply because I was unwilling to lay down my blind plans. That thing in your hand, that thing that seems so good and so right? Who knows but that it’s a butcher knife, poised to wreak havoc upon the far superior plans God is working out in you right this very moment.
May we all have the courage to lay it down and rest in His immeasurable goodness and love for us.