I settled down at the table and watched my daughter compose her face in her “now-I-have-something-important-to-say” expression: eyes level, chin down, forehead hopeful.
She paused dramatically and in a butter-cream-smooth tone, said: “Mom, if you just gave us more of the things we want, there would be less crying and being angry with you.”
Reader, I literally snorted with laughter. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed until the tears streamed down my cheeks, infuriating my daughter more with each passing second. In hindsight, I probably should have laughed a little less.
I laughed because this was not the first time I was getting advice from my kids on how to do a better job as their mom. Not unlike the young tyrant from Calvin and Hobbes, my children are full of suggestions on how I can “improve my ratings,” or secure better responses from them.
In this particular instance, my 6-year old was angling for me to change my mind about whether or not she could have her ears pierced: a decision we had already said no to. She entreated us daily. For weeks on end. Sometimes with tantrums. Sometimes with stony silences. And on that particular day, she resorted to cool, calm reason. If we would just give her what she wanted, she’d be less angry with us.
Somewhere in the midst of that laughing, I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the shoulder. Once again, He directed me to consider that panoramic vantage point into God’s parenting of us, His children, which we become privy to when we become parents ourselves.
In the hours that followed, He brought to mind the things I had been nagging Him about daily. For weeks on end. With internal tantrums manifesting in external snark. Certainly, there were silences. And yes, I believe that even if I hadn’t articulated the words out loud, somewhere deep inside my soul I had said the same words to God: “If you would just give me what I want, I would cry less and be less angry with you.”
In the midst of my laughter for my daughter, my heart swelled with tenderness for my sweet kiddo, so earnest in her entreaty and so limited in her understanding. In that same moment, God showed me the tenderness of His heart towards me, even when I don’t know what I’m begging for in my limited understanding.
In Jen Pollock Michel’s newly released book Teach Us To Want, she teases out the subject of longing, ambition, and the life of faith. To want things is quintessentially human, she says: we were created as creatures who desire things. Sin has tainted our desires, skewing God’s original design so that rather than wanting His highest joys in the service of His Kingdom, we drift towards wanting counterfeit joys which serve ourselves. Often, our knee-jerk reaction when we become believers is to try to quash all our desires: “I know my desires are sinful,” we say, “so I won’t desire anything.”
Pollock’s gentle reminder is that it is not wanting in itself that is wrong; it is wanting the wrong thing. As redeemed daughters of a loving God, He does not look on our misplaced wants with frustration or rejection. Rather, He sees us as a father would: wanting to give us true joy, and fulfill the very deepest desires of our hearts.
He knows, too, that as much as it may seem to us at the time: getting our ears pierced (or getting that outfit, that opportunity, that guy, that house) will not ultimately make us happy. It may well be that He will allow us that thing in its time (just as my daughter has exactly 6½ years to wait before we’ll let someone shoot a hole through her ears). But the thing we’re really wanting: the feeling of belonging, the knowing we are unconditionally loved, the knowing that our requests were heard, the compassion that we want to be seen as really beautiful girls … that, He knows all about.
And He delights to fulfill those desires.