There have been countless times I sink into the couch after the kids are tucked in and the reflections of the day make me cringe. It feels like the day was consumed with correcting and fine-tuning the things in my kids like they’re some kind of broken down car in need of repair. I’m adjusting this behavior, improving those manners or modifying this conduct. And if I’m truthful with myself, oftentimes pride is my motivation; wanting my kids to look and act the part so I look good. But God’s not like that. God is gracious in His mercy. He doesn’t constantly criticize and point out all the ugly, broken stuff inside of me. He is gentle and kind in leading me toward Truth. And His glory does not depend on the actions of his children. Thank the Lord for that because I am constantly making a mess of His name.
Recently He wanted to reveal something in me. And He did it as the gentle Father that He is. At church this past Sunday we talked about surrender. And as I was listening, feeling guilty for all of the things left in me that need yielding to Him, God brought me to this verse in Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom. He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” At the time I felt like it was an odd verse to lay on my heart.
As we think of surrendering every area of our life to Him, we tend to think of God revealing every bit of our brokenness and sin at once; demanding that we lay it down and give up everything we have that moment. I can come away feeling like I’m not good enough. I’m not giving enough away. I’m not doing enough. I’m not trusting enough. And it becomes about me.
But in His gentle way He used one of my kids to point me to the real Truth of what He wanted my Spirit to hear.
As we were driving home from church, there were two men at two different stoplights with signs asking for money or food. We gave our cash to the first man but didn’t have anything left for the next one. Our six year old Kate is our observer. She is constantly taking in her surroundings. And I knew she was watching as we sat at the light next to that second man.
We get home and she immediately opens the drawer to the ziploc bags and takes one out. I then hear the coins in her piggy bank jingling together as she gets it down from her closet and dumps it out.
She’s been saving her money for quite some time now. She saved her birthday money and she’s done extra chores around the house to earn even more money and she’s accumulated quite the stash for a six year old. There have been some opportunities for her to spend it but she’s held on to it and been quite proud as her stockpile has grown.
She comes out with the ziploc bag full of money and written with a marker on it: “Love, Kate.” She proclaims she wants to give it to the man by the road that needs it.
As a mom, I was so proud and touched of course but I was also concerned about her giving away so much of that hard earned, saved money. And I said, “well honey ask God how much He wants you to give.” And Kate says, “I don’t need to do that, I want to give him all of this.” And Andrew, next to me, whispers, “She doesn’t need to do that. We can always replenish it for her.”
And that’s when the Lord pierced my own heart and spoke to me, “This is what surrender looks like. This is what it means to have faith like a child.” Matthew 18:3, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'”
Kate’s not laboring over that fact that if she gives all of her money away she might starve or not have clothes or toys or a bed to sleep in. She knows we take care of that. Her daddy provides all she needs.
And for me: It’s not about what I do. My labor means nothing. I bring nothing to the table. It’s about living in the Truth and reality that my Father takes care of all that I need. Kate didn’t even need to remind herself of this fact. It’s simply a Truth that she lives and operates in.
Lord, make me like a child. May I operate in Your Kingdom. May complete dependence on You become my reality. This is what surrender means. You can always replenish.
I love His gentle ways with me.
Jack, my three-year-old, has this bin of matchbox cars. When I hear that bin tip over, my heart sinks a bit. If you’re a mom of boys…you know the sound. The lego bin produces a similar sort of heart-dropping effect when you hear those little plastic
weapons toys being dumped onto the floor.
There are a lot of cars in that bin. A. Lot. Matchbox cars are sure to top Jack’s list of most prized possessions. And the other day I got a glimpse of how precious these tiny little pieces of metal are to him. He ran out of his room, found me in the living room and begged me to help him find a missing car. He began describing this particular yellow car in great detail. I sat with him, rummaging through the pile and found multiple yellow cars. “here ya go buddy!” – “no, no that’s not it.”
By the fourth car, I’m thinking to myself, “Why is this yellow one so special? There can’t be much that’s unique about this one.”
But he was on a mission. He could not get this car out of his head. He had to find it.
It was one of those gentle reminders God gave me. “That’s how I feel about you.”
To me, the cars all looked the same. It was just another car; he had 60 more in the bin. And I reminded him of that a couple of times. But he didn’t want the 60 other cars. He wanted THAT one. Jack, being the keeper of the cars, knew when one was missing and he had to find it. And once we finally did find the car, he was as happy as could be and contently ran off to play.
“Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – Luke 15: 3-7
I love my kids. A lot.
As I’m sure you do as well if you are a parent.
When someone messes with my kids, it brings out the inner Mama bear. If I see someone push my Kate or Jack on the playground, it’s time for war. Even if someone innocently misunderstands my child, I feel angry. How do they not “get” my child. Don’t they understand how special they are?
Imagine with me.
There’s a boy down the street. And he has it out for my little four year old princess. He pushes her, call her stupid, tells her she can’t play with him. He makes her feel, for the first time in her little life: fear, loneliness, anger, sadness.
We find out this little boy is going to die. He has a rare, incurable disease. His only chance of survival is a heart transplant. And our little Kate is a match. Kate will have to die in order for this little boy to live.
So we decide to lay our little Kate’s life down so this punk kid down the street can live. And she willingly agrees.
After this transaction takes place, we offer this little boy to come live with us. He needs a mommy and daddy who loves him. We will be his home.
He looks at us, spits in our faces and says he doesn’t need us.
Our home remains open. Our arms extended for the day he might change his mind.
This story is absurd, right? Incomprehensible.
I would NEVER give up my Kate. Especially for a boy who tortured her. Who never understood the special gift she was. Who constantly took advantage of her. Who made her feel loneliness and sadness for the first time in her innocent life.
And then to offer him my home again and again after such rejection?
Who would ever do such a thing?
I’ve been wrecked by the love of the Father for me. This is what He has done for me: the punk kid down the street who spit on, laughed at and beat His son. I didn’t understand who He was. And really didn’t care to know. And yet He chose to give up His precious boy to save this bratty little girl who cared only for herself. It’s absurd, right? Incomprehensible.
Ephesians 3:17-19, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
“Buddy, be patient. I’m almost done.”
More whining. More impatient cries.
“Be patient. Trust me buddy, you wouldn’t want me to give you your lunch right now. It’s not ready. You’re going to want the whole thing.”
The words came out and quickly echoed back in my brain. They stuck to me like the peanut butter I was just beginning to spread across the slice of bread.
I imagined handing my 18 month old a slab of peanut butter piled high on a slice of bread. Silliness. He may stop crying. He may even end up with his hunger satisfied. But he would miss something better. Not to mention the mess I would have to clean up.
I finished making his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, choosing to ignore the cries and the tiny hands pulling on my shorts. I cut his sandwich into triangles just the way he likes it. I’m his mother. I know things like that. His hunger would now be met in a way that gave him joy with every bite. I saw the finished picture. He just needed to wait.
I now pictured myself as that 18 month old, whining and crying, wanting my desires met on my terms. I stamp my feet and pull at His hands, wondering why He is ignoring me.
But as I look at my little Jack with all the love and pleasure a mother could give, I have a deeper understanding of my Father’s love for me. He just wants to give me something better. He’s not withholding. He’s just completing what He started for me. Something that will truly satisfy. And He’s my Father. He knows exactly what that is. He’s creating something that will give me joy with every bite.
I just need to wait.
I have two kids now. And one of them is a two year old. There are a couple of implications from these facts.
#1. I am getting less sleep (not an important point for this post but one that is on my mind nonetheless :))
#2. My two year old is testing me much more in this new season
#3. God is teaching me SO many things about His relationship with me
Here’s an example.
I love Kate dearly. And many times I admire and love her fierce independence. But her need for control over EVERY situation utterly exhausts me. I cannot handle being told where to sit, how to hold a book and what the name of that animal is even though it is clearly a tiger and not a lion.
And although it is irritating for myself, I mostly feel sad for her. While she was concerned with how mommy held the book, she missed out on the chance to be caught up in the story. And while she planned ahead whether mommy or daddy put her into her car seat, she killed the anticipation and excitement of a trip to the park. And when she refused that hug, she missed out on a moment of love from her daddy.
One day I was venting to God. I was tired of having to address this issue over and over and over again with Kate. “God, why can’t she just relax? Why can’t she enjoy the moment? Why can’t she just be content? Why can’t she let us love her like we want to? Why can’t she lighten up?”
And he gently replied, like He always does…
“Why can’t you?”
Oh the parallels of parenting. It was a much-needed conviction.
I need to relax and let go. I need to lighten up and have fun. I need to let Him love me like He wants to.
Thanks for the reminder, Jesus.
I’m taking the lazy route. Andrew posted this a while back on his blog, and I’m stealing it. I’ve been a bit paralyzed to summarize God’s hand in our lives throughout the past year and a half. So I’ll let Andrew do the work. Click here to see what’s been going on.