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You can’t make this up: I was trying to feed our toddler, who had not yet caught the flu bug that had visited our house—or so I thought.
As I put a spoonful to his mouth, he suddenly vomited in my direction. Reflexively I did what any former baseball player would do.
I caught it in my hands.
At that precise moment, my exuberant six-year-old raced around the corner. “Dad, look!” he said excitedly. He wanted to show me something.
Incredulous, I stared at him, Colin’s semi-digested food overflowing my still-cupped palms.
“Do I look a little busy?!” I snapped, not a little sarcastically. He slunk off.
Two decades later, I still feel bad about that. I might have said, “Grab a towel. Then we’ll talk.” But I didn’t say that.
Instead, I mishandled the moment and drove my enthusiastic son away.
One In A Thousand
That same child, now 26, is the one who has most humbled us over the years. That’s his car you see in the photo (above). The emergency crew chief who helped extricate him from the wreckage told us, “That is one in a thousand.”
Not only did our son survive, he took six steps the next day and continued to recover.
This is the son who, at the age of four, stuck a screwdriver into a light socket. Twice.
The first time his mother raced into the room to learn the source of the painful yelp.
The second time, days later, she asked in exasperated disbelief, “Why did you do that again?”
“I wanted to see the sparks.”
This same boy sledded down sixteen stairs in a laundry basket, tumbling to a halt just in front of the plate-glass door at the end of the landing.
When his mother emphatically told him never to do that again, he promptly did it again, this time thumping down the steps on cardboard.
“But you said not to do it in a laundry basket,” he protested.
The same child also came in the house scratched and bleeding, which admittedly was a regular occurrence with him. “This parachute doesn’t work,” he said dejectedly.
“What parachute?” his mother said, equal parts intrigued and alarmed.
“This one,” he said, forlornly holding up several small plastic bags he’d fastened together.
Before she could formulate a sensible response, his face brightened. “I know,” he said. “I’ll climb higher in the tree!”
You need to understand that his mother is a great mom. She’s not inattentive. She’s highly invested in all her kids’ lives.
But what works for one child is not likely to work well for another.
Some kids are low maintenance and turn out just fine.
Others take all your time yet demand even more of it, all the while escorting your emotions on an involuntary roller-coaster ride.
It’s as though God purposely gives you something you can’t possibly handle. Oh yes, kids will humble you.
What About God’s Kids?
It’s easy to second-guess ourselves and say that if only we’d done something a bit different, “that child” would have also turned out “just fine”—whatever that means.
We seek a magic formula, a perfect plan that if implemented properly will take care of everything. If only we could figure out what it is.
God had a couple of kids. He made them himself, fashioning the first one out of clay and making him in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).
Then He made the perfect woman for the perfect man (Genesis 2:18; 20–23). He placed them in the perfect environment and gave them work they would find fulfilling and rewarding.
Tend to this gorgeous garden (Genesis 1:28–30; 2:15). Care for the animals. Enjoy each other. Enjoy the family relationship with Me.
Then He gave them one rule. Just one. “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17).
They broke that one rule.
By doing so, they broke the whole world: our relationship with God, our relationship with nature, our relationships with each other—they broke everything.
Nothing would be the same.
Life would be unnecessarily hard.
Gardens would have weeds to choke the life-sustaining plants (Genesis 3:17–19). Childbirth would be excruciating (3:16).
We would mistreat and misunderstand each other, becoming rivals more than partners. We would be born to die.
A Good Father, You Say?
What’s wrong with God? Isn’t He a good parent? Why couldn’t He keep His kids from doing the wrong thing?
We can’t delve into all the theological reasons here why God made us the way He did.
But consider this: If God had compelled our unfailing obedience to Him, how could we ever love Him?
If we had no choice in the matter—no free will to accept or reject Him—we would not be capable of loving Him. Love must be free, or it is not love.
God is, in fact, the perfect Parent. He loves us unfailingly.
My struggles with my kids give me a hint of what God goes through with me.
I exasperate my Father with my wilfulness. I thoroughly try His patience time and again with my attitude, my worries, my pride, my self-sufficiency. I don’t need Him until I need Him. And then I really need Him!
How does He ever put up with me?
In learning about His patience with me, I learn about parenting.
Jesus showed us what real love looks like. His love doesn’t compromise the truth. It won’t excuse injustice. But His love won’t ever give up either. And His love doesn’t seek what’s good for Him; it seeks what’s good for us.
When Jesus was just about to go to the cross for us, His disciples—with whom He had worked side by side for 3½ years—finally started to get it (John 16:29–30).
Yet, in a few hours, they would desert Him (Mark 14:50), all except for John. Hadn’t Jesus taught them well enough?
Trust God’s Process
Ultimately, Jesus would change the world through those disciples. But they took a long time to begin understanding what Jesus was doing.
Similarly, parenting is a process. We pour ourselves into their lives. We pray for them. We make mistakes. We cry. We rant. We laugh. We love.
We’ve seen kids come full circle as they’ve run from God and then returned, finding answers to their own set of questions. We wait for another child to return. We trust God, who loves our kids far more than we ever could.
Although we’d like all the answers now, we simply don’t have them. What we do have is a loving Father.
Why did God give me high-maintenance kids?
I need the humility to become what He wants me to be. As the apostle Paul said, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We’re not there yet.