setting them up for success

I went to the bank to cash Christmas checks my kids got from their grandfather. The teller looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for each check to be broken down into certain, specific increments. Why complicate it that way? Because I wanted each child to have, readily available, the exact bills needed in order to tithe. They would do so anyway, but it would be much more complicated. Tim and I would be frantically trying to make change and come up with the necessary amounts ten minutes before church started. It would be chaos, so I decided to take things into my own hands and simplify the process.

Driving home, I was thinking about the ways in which we, as parents, try to equip our children for success. If we want our children to carry down their dirty laundry, we have to give them laundry baskets and a deadline. If we want our family to eat healthy, we have to have appropriate foods available, easy to get to, and already prepared. Sometimes I have to do similar things for myself. In order to make sure I will read and study the Bible, I have to put it in front of me. I moved a big soft chair into my office and spread out my lovely, shiny new concordance and my study Bibles. When they’re sitting on my shelf, I don’t remember to use them. But now, every time I walk into my office, I see before me a cozy, comfy spot that already has everything I need. All I have to do is sit down. I don’t do it often enough, but it’s all there for me when I am ready.

Just as we take care of our kids, God wants to take care of us, to give us every opportunity to succeed. He has already given us every single thing we need, as He’s done throughout time – He provided manna in the wilderness; He put a lamb in the bushes for Abraham to sacrifice; and He prepared a manger to receive a very special baby. And He instituted the dispensation of grace, knowing that we would never be able to meet all the requirements of the old laws – and declaring that we didn’t have to. Showing His wisdom, knowing our weaknesses, He took matters into His own hands. He stepped off His heavenly throne and came to us in the form of a tiny infant, then allowed those very same hands to be nailed to the cross. He rose again to show us nothing more is required. There is nothing else for us to do. It’s not about our ability to do the job. We can’t. But we don’t have to. He took the burden off of our shoulders and set everything
in place. Our part of the job is simple. All we have to do is say. “Thanks for your help, Daddy. I couldn’t do it without you.”

Not now

Not now, honey. Not yet. I know you want to drive, but you’re not old enough. I know you want to sit in the front seat, but if the airbag went off, it would crush you. I know you don’t want to buckle up and stay in your car seat, but I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you. I know you want to go to that party, but there aren’t going to be any adults and I don’t trust teenage boys alone with you. I know that cupcake looks good, Bobby, but it might have milk in it and would make you really, really sick.

Sometimes we ask God for things, and we feel sad because he won’t give us what we believe to be our heart’s desire. But maybe, just maybe, we aren’t ready. It’s not that He doesn’t know we want it. He’s doing it for our own good. The Lord takes care of us just as we’ve taken care of our children, guarding them from unnecessary danger, avoiding risk, doing whatever we can to protect them. Sometimes the thing your child wants is not inherently bad; it’s just wrong for that moment. Babies might put quarters into their mouths and choke; a six-year-old would buy a gumball and have fun playing with the machine; an older child would put it with several other quarters to buy a Coke.

How we handle things depends partly on our stage of development. How often are we simply not ready for what we ask for? Maybe instead of recklessly giving us what we want, God is waiting, possibly even leading us through a process to show us how to be ready. Helping us grow up. Teaching us how to use the gift we’re about to receive. I don’t know, and often we aren’t granted the explanation behind God’s answers. But one thing is for sure. He will answer us, but we’ll only get gifts that are age-appropriate.

Starving

My son forgets to eat. He does what most of us do not, and only eats when his body tells him he’s hungry. This is great, except for one thing: sometimes he can’t rely on his body. He can skip lunch, no matter what I pack him to eat, and when he comes home from school he still insists he isn’t hungry. The thing is, his behavior indicates otherwise. He’s grumpy, irritable, emotionally volatile. When I notice this behavior, I’ve learned that he needs to eat. Sometimes I have to practically force feed him, but inevitably he calms down, stabilizes, and soon is back to normal.

I have a friend who knows she’s hungry, but who doesn’t eat. She’s not anorexic, and it’s not about a diet. She hungers spiritually to belong to a church, to be fed on a regular basis. The only problem is, she doesn’t go to church. She knows why it’s important to be there; she understands the value of fellowship and corporate praise, but she’s had some bad experiences and doesn’t want to go. The thing is, she’s starving. It’s kind of like a person who got food poisoning, and no matter what, even though there’s nothing else to eat and it’s obvious to everyone else that the food in front of her is safe and edible, she won’t let herself try it. Maybe it’s the fear of going through that again. Maybe it’s simply a case of her body not telling her she’s hungry. Maybe it’s telling her and she won’t listen. But maybe, just maybe, she could realize that what made her sick was a piece of bad chicken and this other church is offering prime rib. It doesn’t have to be the same. It’s possible for the food in front of her to nourish her rather than make her sick. Maybe it will even do more than simply provide her with the nutrients necessary to survive. Perhaps it could renew her energy. Perhaps it could drastically improve her outlook on life.

Just like with my son, sometimes I have to be pushy. So that’s what I’m doing. Reminding her, because I love her and want to see her thrive. Because her spiritual health is suffering. Because maybe she doesn’t see what is obvious to outsiders. She is craving something, and she doesn’t have to deprive herself. Even if her family doesn’t want to eat with her. Whether she feasts or nibbles a tiny bit at a time. Either way, it’s good for her. I have heard that when someone is physically starving, if they go long enough without what they need, their body turns against them. It will reject the very thing necessary for it to survive. I pray that my friend will sit down at the table. At least open the menu. See what’s on it.