“Stop! Don’t run into the parking lot! Take my hand!” This is what I would find myself yelling time and time again to our daughter. She was fast and she was determined.
Attempting to get her to stop and hold my hand was a constant battle.
Maybe she saw the freedom her big sisters had and wanted to show me that she too could be independent. Maybe she thought running through a parking lot would be the most fun thing she had ever experienced. Maybe she was just that excited to get inside Target (that one I can relate to). Whatever it was that went through her little head, it was a battle to make her stop.
The problem was, she couldn’t see what I saw. I knew if she were to bolt into the parking lot, at her size, and at that speed, there was a chance someone may not see her and hit her. I knew the consequences could be dire. Her mind couldn’t comprehend what that meant. Young children don’t think that way. They live their lives in the moment, with little thought or regard to things such as passing cars.
They chase butterflies. And stop to look at flowers. They experience the world different and get excited about things that long lost their excitement for most grown-ups years ago.
As her mother, my job was, and still is, to try to protect her and help her to navigate through the dangers she can’t yet see. To her, I can easily be seen as someone who is ruining her fun, making all of these rules, taking something that could be awesome (like a three-year old running wild through a parking lot) and turning it into a boring, hand-holding, slow walk back to the minivan.
When she was little, if she did choose to run out into the parking lot and not listen to me, there was a consequence. And this consequence could also make me seem like a big, mean, fun-ruining mommy who loved nothing more than to dish out consequences for these ridiculous rules I’ve concocted.
One of the things I have tried to explain to my children is that doling out consequences isn’t fun. That isn’t the thing parents get excited about when their baby is put in their arms. “Yay! One day I will get to discipline!” No. I don’t enjoy giving consequences, but I do it because I love my children and they need to learn to stop and listen to my voice. Not because I am power hungry and want to make their lives miserable, but because I love them so incredibly much and, being older, I can see things they can’t yet see.
Something I hope all of my children realize is that no matter how many times they don’t listen, and no matter how many times they choose to disobey, these choices have no bearing on my love for them.
Nothing they ever do, or don’t do, can change my love in anyway. It will always be there. It is not dependent on their action or inaction. I will always love them, no matter what.
I think the way my daughter viewed me when she was younger, and we would have our parking lot battles, is sometimes the way we can start to view God. Instead of seeing Him as a loving, protective Father who loves us unconditionally, He becomes a rule-maker focused on how well behaved we are. He becomes a Father who will remove His love the minute we break those rules.
When our oldest was younger, she had a show she really wanted to watch that we decided she just wasn’t ready for. We explained to her that we loved her and wanted to protect her and for that reason, she had to wait until she was older to watch the show.
I remember her looking at me and saying, “If you love me, won’t you let me watch it?”
In her mind, us loving her meant we should give her what she wants. She couldn’t understand that keeping her from something was actually showing her more love than allowing her to have all of the desires of her heart.
If we allow our children to do everything they want. If we give them everything they want to have. If we allow them to watch whatever they want to watch and stay up as late as they want every night, then sure they think they will be happy – but ultimately they will suffer in some way. Because we know those things are not good for them.
God, as our Creator, knows what is good for us. He knows what is best for us and He wants what is best for us. When we step out of what God calls us to, and when we step outside of the boundaries He has created for us, we fall prey to the natural consequences of those choices.
God sees what we can’t see, just like I could see what my daughter couldn’t see at the ripe old age of three years when all she wanted to do was run wild in the parking lot.
When I first became a believer, I loved to look at ant colonies. Weird, right? What I loved about looking at an ant colony is it helped me to have a picture of God’s omnipotence. I could see all of those ants running around, doing their ant thing as clear as day. I was so much bigger than them. I would look at the ants and think we are like little ants running around and God can see everything we are doing all of the time. For whatever reason, God used those ants to help me to better understand who He is.
And as my relationship with God has grown and developed over the years, I am realizing the most important thing for me to understand about who He is, is that He has an infinite amount of love to give.
As much as I love my children, God loves me that much more.
So often, we want to put conditions on God’s love. We want to make him the mean old rule-maker in the sky who wants to squash all of our fun and only loves us when we follow His rules. That is not how God loves us, just as that is not how we love our children.
I am a flawed parent and He is the perfect Father. I want my kids to trust me, yet I am not always willing to trust God, knowing that He knows what is best for my life. What do I do when God yells for me to stop? Do I trust Him, or do I keep plodding forward? And if I do continue forward, not listening, when I do finally stop to listen do I believe He has forgiven me and that He loves me, or do I fall into a pit of guilt, shame and self-loathing? Am I able to accept the natural consequences that occur for the wrong choices I make? Or do I feel like this must be evidence that I am unlovable?
God speaks love into our lives and the enemy speaks shame.
God is our Creator. And He guides us in love because He knows what is best for us.
It seems so simple, yet we manage to make a mess of it. Thank you God for not being the big, mean rule-maker in the sky who dishes out punishments and only loves us when we are good. Thank you God that you are not that way at all. Thank you for giving us Your Word so that we can learn to follow you.