Hello, my name is Matt and I'm a people watcher. I don't know when it started but there's no doubt I am addicted to people-watching. Addicted isn't even the right word--it implies some awareness of an unhealthy habit that can be broken--my people watching is more like breathing, an involuntary act woven into my daily natural rhythms. . .
One of my favorite things to observe is parenting (NOTE: I said observe and not judge. Although I make observations, I am not judging most of the time. The only perfect parents are those with no kids.) I love the spectrum of techniques and tricks, graces and disciplines that exist among parents and their wonderfully unique kids. . .
They dropped their pacifier! Do you. . .
A. Get out the Haz-Mat suit, pick it up with tongs, and send it off to the dry cleaners? Or
B. Put some extra dirt & hair on it and pop it back into their mouths to build up their immune system?
They just purposefully pulled the plant off the table which has crashed into a pile of pottery shards and dirt onto your floor. Do you. . .
A. Grab their one wrist and hold it above their heads and try to swat their bottom as they wail and spin around like a merry-go-round full of demons? OR
B. Look them in the eye and explain their behavior is a root condition of the Fall and they are going to be disciplined now and the purpose of discipline is redemptive behavior which is truly only possible through the sanctifying work of the Spirit which starts with repentance but it has to be sincere because God knows our hearts?
They've done their best to write manuals and provide parenting blogs, etc. but there isn't a once-for-all parenting book that gives the exact blueprint for raising children. . .and even those resources won't help when you're in the heat of a moment when your toddler waddles into the room, proud and smiling, with diaper contents in both hands and smeared on their face. . .
I remember the first time our first daughter, Micah, was old enough and sick enough to require medicine a little more potent than the Standard Issue Red Syrup. We thought she was ready to learn how to swallow a pill. . .
"OK, honey, this is a big person pill, you don't chew this, OK? You take a drink and you swallow it, OK? You just swallow it."
(We tend to say "OK" a lot when we're teaching kids new things.)
She filled her cheeks up with water and kept them poofed out.
"OK, now swallow it!"
She spits it all out into the sink. . ."It tastes terrible!"
"Yes it does, that's why you have to swallow it quickly. It's not that hard, it's just like swallowing. . ."
("A pill" is what I was going to say. . .Swallowing a pill is just like swallowing a pill. . .Arrggh, where's my parenting manual?!?)
"It's like swallowing a penny, remember that time you swallowed a penny?"
"You told me not to do that."
"Yes, yes I did. But now I'm telling you to swallow the pill like the time you swallowed the penny, but I'm not saying you now have a license to start swallowing money again."
"Do you ever eat food so fast that sometimes you swallow, I don't know, like a piece of macaroni, without chewing it? It's just like that."
"You told me not to do that too."
"Suddenly you remember and are willing to obey everything I've ever told you."
(I can't remember if I thought that or said it out loud.)
Eventually, Team Awesome Parent went to go watch LOST. . .and we left her alone in the bathroom with the "if you want to feel better, you'll swallow that pill" ultimatum. Somehow through the many more projectile spits into the sink and a good half dozen wasted pills she figured out how to gulp it down on her own.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where Jesus describes how as imperfect and sinful parents we love our children, giving them the best we can, and not intending to harm them. He then describes how much greater the love and desire to give good gifts is from our Heavenly Father towards us as His children (Matthew 7, Luke 11).
It's such a powerful thought and concept, given to us by Christ Himself. . .that we are loved with a perfect parental love, a divine other-wordly affection and protection. . .a parental love we can only imagine in part as we examine our own imperfect love and care for our kids.
I think about the concept frequently, and I often think of it in the "how much more" way Jesus shared. Recently, a friend of mine had his first real medical situation with his first child, barely a toddler in age. We discussed that hopeless feeling as your kid feels terrible but there's no way to help them understand why things are the way they are. . .we can only offer what comfort we can. You want them to know: you're there for them. . .and one day it will be all better.
The worst is when the kid is throwing up for the first time: the poor thing gives you those puppy dog eyes, pleading with you to explain what's happening, as the vomit just uncontrollably comes from their mouth. . .
"How Much More?" came back to me in the midst of our discussion. . .
Does God (and through our history of development as people, Has God,) had "swallow a pill" moments with us? Moments where we as a people, a culture, or an individual are crying to Him in prayers and puppy dog eyes asking Him why things are the way they are and there just aren't words for us to comprehend? No perfect analogy to describe it?
I think of the problem of evil and suffering in the world. . .we as God's toddler creations experiencing vomiting sickness (some way worse than others). . .and I picture God as a parent. . .wanting to explain why things are the way they are. . .and knowing there's no way for us to grasp fully what's going on. . .
I'm not trying to solve the problem of evil, or make light of it. . .by no means. But I do know, when I am confronted with the fact a benevolent God exists but yet great and seemingly random suffering exists as well. . .that our God is a parent who cares and comforts even when we receive nothing but silence to our questions of "Why?". He gives us all the answers we can handle and all the comfort He can. . .
I know this because this is the message and hope He's given us in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a message we can understand:
God knows the illness and has done something about it. . .and is doing something about it even now and one day will completely and forever do something about it.
In the meantime, His Spirit is with us in the illness. . .individual and indwelling care from the Parent who perhaps wishes they could explain more but knows it is beyond our understanding.
It may not make the vomiting any less painful, but it helps to know our Parent is there for us. . .and one day it will be all better. . .