When my second daughter was three, she went through that phase every toddler goes through when they insist they are right on every occasion and argue with everything Mom and Dad say. It happens again around eleven and continues until the child becomes an adult and then finally realizes just how right Mom and Dad were...hopefully.
So it was during this time, that my stubborn hearted daughter spotted the jug of white vinegar in the pantry. She immediately demanded that I give her some of this juice. I explained it wasn’t juice it was yucky and sour. After 3 minutes of dramatic fit throwing, a swat on her behind and me on the verge of losing my mind, I decided to let her have a sip of vinegar so she could see that I was actually trying to do her a favor by not letting her drink vinegar. I grabbed her pink sippy cup and poured some for her. She took a big swig, a really big swig, and oh her face! It was just the best face ever. She threw her cup on the ground and began to cry looking at me like I just tried to poison her.
Parenting at its finest, let me tell you.
Here I am, four kids and many sippy cup tantrums later, and I find myself remembering that incident specifically because it was so ridiculous. There have been many times when my kids have begged for something that was so clearly out of the question, and no matter how much I tried to explain to them how much they cannot do what they want, they argue. I have heard myself say such outlandish things like,
“Stop smearing poop on the wall!”
“No, you cannot eat out of the dog bowl.”
“We don’t pick other people’s noses.”
And my favorite…
“Please climb out of the toilet and dry off all of the toys you took in with you.”
I mean really. Did any of us ever imagine that we would be saying some of the things we say to our kids? It’s hysterical.
Yet, I can easily see myself reflected in my children during these moments of irrational thinking. I know there have been times in my life when I have begged God for certain things that I just knew would be everything I thought they were and all I would ever need to be happy. I’ve prayed for that certain boy to like me because I just knew he was the one that would make me happy forever. I’ve prayed for certain items or jobs that I just had to have to be content, or acceptance from others that I was sure would help me love myself more-ridiculous things really.
And of course, these desires never were the one thing that made me happy forever. My heart was never content with these idols once I managed to grab hold of them and pull them close. And thankfully, God knew better than I did who was and was not the one that I should be with for the rest of my life. I wonder if God ever shook his head as I took my swig of vinegar with such hope for fulfillment and happiness. I imagine he rolled his eyes as I threw the things I had demanded on the ground, devastated that they were not what I had thought they would be.
Truthfully, God knows our hearts better than we do. He knows what it is we desire and need the most. It is him, of course. Our begging for other things to satisfy us are as ludicrous as my daughter begging for me to fill her sippy cup with vinegar. God knows that we are often clueless about what brings fulfillment. He knows we can't imagine how disappointed we will be when we get what we think we can’t live without.
Thankfully, God is a patient Father. He may allow us to have what we are asking for, even if it’s sour, so that we will learn to desire him more than we desire our own way. He’s willing to allow us to go through some pain and discomfort so that we will open our eyes to the truth that all the joy we are seeking is found in him. Sometimes what our stubborn hearts need is a big swig of reality, harsh as it may be, to see the folly of our nature. We can be so bent and twisted in our desire, that we cannot see how foolish our demands are until it is too late.
My prayer for us, and our children today is that we would set our hearts desire on Christ and that he would be what we long for the most. I pray that we would grow in our understanding of how stubborn we can be when we don’t get what we think will make us happy, and repent of our foolishness. I pray that we would have the endurance and patience to teach this to our children while they are young, while they are still under our care, so that irreversible pain can hopefully be avoided as they step into adulthood. May we teach them to desire God most and submit their foolish wills to him, as we choose to submit ours.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:21-25
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children… Deuteronomy 6:5-6