Cows, Folly & My Epiphany

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.”  Proverbs 22:15

One day when I was standing in my bathroom doing my hair, I was particularly exasperated with one of the boys, who had just gotten on my last good nerve.  I whispered to God that I can’t take any more foolishness.

It’s at that moment that I’m pretty sure I heard God chuckle.

Since having our kids in our home I have lamented different challenges to my own mother.  She lives far from me, but through the phone I can hear her smile in an evil way, as if somehow she was finally seeing me receive something that I have been deserving for a very long time.

Kids have an incredible power to infuriate.  I guess I’m not supposed to admit that.  In true Children’s Pastor form, I am supposed to say that they are blessings from the Lord.  Most of the time I view them as blessings, but there are moments when they say things that make me lose my mind.  But as I stood in the bathroom that day, I had a small epiphany. It dawned on me that there is nothing that my children can do to me that I have not already done to my Heavenly Father.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

1. “Maaawwwmm, are we there yet?”
This is the question that makes a parent want to turn up the radio to eardrum-shattering volume and drive like the wind. Although I try to remind them that the best fun is in the journey and I attempt to distract them with, “Look, guys… cows!”, my children ask that question incessantly during the six-hour trip to Grandma’s house. They start from the moment their bums hit the car seat until the moment they see me with my head on the steering wheel as they hop out at Grandma’s house.

Here’s how the question sounds when I say the same thing to my Heavenly Father: “God, when am I going to be where you’ve promised to take me?”

I am constantly looking forward to some other time when things will be better, when the difficult part called “the journey” will be over and I will be at a better spot in life.  Perhaps down the road I will have it together.  Perhaps down the road I will see the promise that God gave to me fulfilled in my life.  When are we going to get to that always-elusive place where I will walk in the fulness of what God has promised me?

But God is reminding me constantly that there is joy in taking the ride.  It may seem long, and there may be a long wait before I see what He has promised me, but I need to look around at the countryside and enjoy what’s happening in the moment instead of wishing time away.

2.  “I can do it myself.”

As parents we like to foster an independent spirit in our children.  We like it when they are self-sufficient.  However, there are times when they require assistance, but insist that they can do it themselves.  I have a son who is particularly strong-willed, and I fully believe that he is working toward world-domination.  He believes that he can pour boiling water from the kettle, use sharp objects at will, and jump from really high places (it doesn’t help that he lacks depth perception).   He does not like to have assistance and is constantly reminding me that “I can do it MYSELF!”

Do I have an independent spirit?  Of course I do.  I tell God all the time, whether in a conscious way or unconscious way that I don’t need His help.  I am fine all by myself.  I don’t ask His opinion, don’t listen to His warnings, don’t follow His instructions.  I don’t lean on Him for support.  “No worries, God,” I tell Him, “I got this.”

I’m not sure how many times I have to be confronted with my own insufficiency to realize that knowing who to lean on is a sign of my strength, not of my weakness.  There are moments when I need to be strong-willed, and there are moments when I need to recognize my own desperate need of God in everything that I do… especially when it comes to being a mother.

3.  “I’m not listening.”

Nothing infuriates me more than a child who ignores me when I’m talking to them.  All 3 of our kids have selective hearing.  I can yell instructions at top level with a megaphone in the middle of the living room, and each of them will stare at me blankly when quizzed as to what I just said.  However, if I mention the word “candy” in a small whisper in a back corner of the basement storage room, they will be standing next to me in .5 seconds asking the whereabouts of said candy and whether they are able to have some.

I am often not listening when God wants to speak to me.  I like a lot of noise in my life.  I don’t very often have quiet time.  I like to fill silences in the car or in my room with some sort of entertainment.  “It helps me relax,” I tell myself.  But all of this noise drowns out the voice of God in my life.  Just like my kids, I want to talk while God is speaking.  I like the sound of my voice, my opinion, my way.  I don’t allow God to download things into my heart because my own thoughts and sources of entertainment are making too much noise.

If I want to be sure that my children have heard what I have said, I ask them to look at me while I’m saying it, and then repeat back what I’ve just said.  Perhaps I need to follow the same instruction with my Heavenly Father.  I don’t stop to look at Him much.  I have my eyes on a lot of stuff.  I don’t repeat His words as often as I should either.  Perhaps if I focused my attention on Him and spoke His words over my own heart, I would hear Him more clearly.

4.  “I don’t love you anymore.  I want a new Mom.”

At first I found this sentence particularly hard to take.  Given our family situation, and the reality of what is involved in getting a new family, one would think that those words would be far from our kids’ lips.  However, they are just regular kids and many kids say those words in the heat of their exasperation with their family members.

Sometimes that is the only way that a kid can think of to really stick a verbal knife in a parent’s heart.  “I don’t love you anymore.”

This statement is usually made not because the child doesn’t feel love, but because the parent isn’t giving them what they want.  Usually I respond to that statement with, “Well, I still love you, and I will not be leaving you. So I might as well pack my bags too.”

Not sure I’ve ever said such an awful thing to God, have I?  Oh wait…

I have love for God that has been very conditional at times.  He doesn’t tend to do things on my agenda and in my timing.  He seems to know what is best for me.  Go figure.  The whole omniscient thing.  And that makes me angry sometimes.  In an indirect way through my heart condition and through my actions I have pulled back my love from Him.  “You didn’t do it my way, so I don’t love you anymore.”

How I wish that I was lying by saying that.  But I am still working on being faithful and trusting and all that difficult stuff.  And God is not changing His mind.  His response to me is always the same.  “Well, I still love you and I will not be leaving you.”

5.  “I’m not cleaning that up.”

People ask me what is the biggest challenge for me in becoming a Mom. I say that it is definitely housework.  I was not prepared for how hard it would be to keep a house clean.  For some reason, children don’t notice dirt.  They seem to enjoy it like little piggies in a sty. The reason I believe they enjoy it is that they bring more and more dirt into the sty and throw whatever they can around the room to add to the already existing plethora of dirt.  All the time.

When asked to at least contribute to the cleanup, their responses range from, “later” to ignoring me, to “I don’t want to”, to just flat-out “No.”  Teaching children to clean up after themselves sometimes feels like trying to teach a cow to fly.  It’s just not in their nature, and they stand there, unmovable, with a blank look on their faces.

In my life with God I have made quite a few messes along the way.  Some of them I have cleaned up, but a majority of the junk still lies there, not dealt with.  I would like it if He would just clean it up in some way that I would not have to deal with it, but there are times when I have to face it head-on and start working.  Christianity is not for the lazy.  God has already done so much for us, but there are some things that we need to clean up from our lives.

Like a true Father, He could do it for me, but instead He hands me a broom, because there’s something in the work that keeps me from making the same mess again.

6.  “Can I have more?”

Last night I took the two oldest kids to Walmart.  Having to take more than one child to the store at a time was one of the things that scared me about potentially becoming a mother of three in the first place.  Generally it is a nightmare.

While we were still in the parking lot, my son began announcing that he needed new “high tops”.  I explained to him that we were there to pick up shoes for his sister, and that he had recently gotten two new pairs of shoes, one pair of which were “high tops”.  Nike’s to be exact.  “Nike Air” to be more exact.

“But I need more.  They aren’t high tops.  I am not going to Walmart unless I get shoes too.”

Are you kidding me?

It seems like no matter how much parents give kids, they are never happy.  We give them life and keep them healthy, shower them with love and with many toys and things to keep them entertained, invest our whole life savings into them, and still they ask for more.

I’m sure I’ve pulled that one on God many times.  I never seem to be happy with what I have.  I’m continually looking for more.  God has blessed me with health, a great husband, amazing kids, a great career, a home, and on and on.  And still, I hold my hand out and say, “Is there anything more?” or “Yeah, but can I also have THIS?”

Truth is, when I’m dealing with kids who want more, I explain to them that they will play with that thing or use that thing and then want something else.  That’s why I don’t give them everything they ask for.  They just won’t appreciate what they have.

May the Lord help me to be more thankful for what I do have.  And may I be a steward of those things in a way that pleases Him.   Then perhaps He will entrust me with other things.

7.  “That’s not fair!”

Children are extremely concerned with what is or is not fair.  Many of them have been raised to believe that they must be treated fairly, to get whatever someone else gets. (That’s a blog for another time).  They think that if their sister gets to have ice cream with Daddy, then Daddy owes them an ice cream too, otherwise that’s not fair.

I often don’t feel that God’s decisions keep fairness in mind.  Once when I was pregnant, I had a friend who was pregnant too.  We were both due at the same time, and it was all very exciting.  She had three kids already, and this one was going to be my first, perhaps only child.  After a number of weeks, I miscarried.  She went on to have her fourth child.

In my own hurt and pain I questioned God as to His fairness.  After all, she already had 3 children.  She was an excellent Mom, and deserves every blessing she receives, but then there are other mothers who get pregnant when they are incompetent, or when they don’t even like children or want them.  I questioned what God chose to give or not give me.  Slowly and painfully, God taught me that I can’t trust Him to do what is fair.  But I can trust Him to do what is right.

I don’t treat all my kids the same.  What works for one does not work for another.  What I give one I can’t give the other.  What I use to teach one doesn’t work on another.  I can’t trust one child with the same things I give to another.  God knew what is best for my life, and He has worked it all out for my good.  Just like He promises to do.

Someone has said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  I say that if you want to hear him laugh, complain about your kids.  He gets it.

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