Last week, my ten-year-old daughter took a step toward maturity, and it was all my fault. I know because she told me … in several ways. The slamming door, the silent treatment, the accusing glare. She was hurt and I was “the worst mom in the world.” It all began on Monday, when she left her library books at home on library day …
“Get your things and get to the car. It’s time to go.” The car had been running for the prescribed five minutes, in order to shake off the night’s chill and get me to work without getting dysfunctional. I’m good to this car. Those in my past have taught me well. The kids are so familiar with these words. I tell them when the car is started to gather their things and make sure they have everything ready to go. Five minutes is enough time to pull your loose ends together when you are in intermediate school. So, really, they had been told twice to check their bags and make sure they had their things before we piled into the car. But, sure enough, as we were all getting buckled, my daughter dramatically sighs, “I left my library books in the house and it’s library day.” The most important day of the week: library day. Else what will she read? (This is where I roll my eyes … Four overflowing bookshelves in the house and a block between us and the public library, which we visit often, and she swears she will have nothing to read for a week!) Usually, I turn off the car, interrupting it’s cough-to-purr time, and run in to grab whatever has been left behind. This actually happens a lot. I was running right on time, which meant no wiggle room in my morning schedule for such nonsense, but I always give in to their pleas and rescue them when they forget things. True to my weakness, I turned off the car, stomped to the door and stopped. “I’m not doing this. I’m sorry, you will have to take your library books back tomorrow.” And then I calmly climbed back into the car, sure that I had acted in wisdom, and drove them to school as she ranted in the backseat. “You are the worst mom in the whole world! I can’t turn them in tomorrow. I only have today…” Thankfully, the drive to school is a short one. She yelled the whole way, climbed out in a huff and emphasized it with a slam of the door. It hurt. I cried all the way to work, knowing I did the right thing.
She came home that afternoon triumphant, two new books in tow. Her BFF had bailed her out, and she had won. But Tuesday brought it all back around. We spent fifteen minutes packing her lunch as I stole moments in the midst to fix my hair. There I was, the worst mom in the world, forgetting to put on my mascara so that she would not have to eat school food that day. Five minutes to go, car started, kids aware that they need to gather their things. “Now Ky, don’t forget your lunch (she was standing right next to it).” “Oh, I won’t, mom. I got it (hadn’t touched it yet)” Out the door, door locked, kids in the car and then … “Crap! I forgot my lunch!” I breathed deeply, reminded her that I had reminded her minutes before and then braced myself: “Can we go back in and get it?” I paused to consider the question and decided again to act in wisdom. “No, I’m sorry. You will have to eat school’s food today.” It was something she truly does not like, and I knew it, but again, I believed this was the right thing to do. I paid for my decision all the way to school … again.
Fast forward to last Thursday: new day, new bad lunch menu. We packed her lunch again, only this time, she picked it up right after she zipped it and carried it around while she gathered the rest of her things. That lunch box did not leave her hand once during the five-minute-warning. Not once. As we piled into the car, I smiled in silent triumph: Lesson learned! My daughter had learned to be responsible in this one thing, at least. I know, you are probably thinking, “One down, a million more to go.” But as the worst mom in the world, this felt good. I felt like I had improved her life, even though it came by denying her requests. Sure, it was painful in the process. I was not feeling smug about it. I was rejoicing at her victory!
In my bible study this morning, I came across some verses that convince me God works in the same way in our lives. I was reading in Jeremiah, and if you don’t know, he was a prophet during the reign of Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son. Josiah sought the Lord with all his heart and worked passionately to restore true worship to God in the land of Israel. You see, they had been worshipping idols since the days of Solomon. Josiah rose up to destroy the work of Satan in the Land. He made no apologies for doing the work of God. He also made no friends. Jehoiakim, his son, came after and destroyed his legacy. He was evil, and he led the people’s hearts astray in his wickedness. Like a dog returning to it’s vomit, Israel returned to idol worship, denying God the honor due his name. And as a loving father, God looked down and made a decision that hurt.
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘…I will acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans*… But the nations that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land,’ says the Lord, ‘and they shall till it and dwell in it. (Jeremiah 24:5, 27:11)’”
God knew that bringing the Israelites to their knees in desperation was the only way He could save them from the worldliness they were so inclined to follow after. I’ve read enough to know that God did not enjoy this process. It was painful for Him. He was pursuing them and they were rejecting Him. Not only that, they were putting themselves in a place where Satan had access to steal, kill and destroy them and their loved ones. God made a tough decision. But when it was all said and done, after seventy years in captivity, the Israelites turned their hearts back to God in desperate need and He delivered them back into their homeland.
And so it is with us. Sometimes, in order to get our attention, God allows things to happen in our lives that bring us to a point of desperation. Am I saying that every bad thing that happens is of His hands? No, absolutely not. Jeremiah 32:35 supports the fact that some things are outside the will of God and happen because evil is rampant:
“And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin (emphasis mine).”
But ultimately, God is in control, and He loves us enough to grow us in a way that will solidify our commitment to Him. Unwanted pregnancies, paralysis, diseases, neediness, isolation and solitude, prison. Sometimes, we have to suffer the consequences of our actions, even when they hurt, for the greater good in our lives. I don’t say this from a place of superiority. I make these statements in humility, from a place of desperation. I have been struggling with the consequences of my immaturity for ten years. But I am wiser for it. And I believe this: “For He works all things for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)” God is wiser than we are, and He does know what’s best for us. We cannot wish away the consequences of our sins. We cannot say that the bad things in our lives happen only because Satan hates us. There comes a point when we have to take responsibility for our actions and then cry out for mercy. We must pray for the strength to live during the learning process. It is not fair to God to accuse Him of being “the worst mom in the world” when things don’t go our way or turn out the way we think they should. But this one thing I do know. He is painting a beautiful picture that we cannot even envision, and when He is finished with it, it will look nothing like we expected. It will look much better!