People have always talked about the simultaneous joy and challenge of parenting. You will understand when you have your own kids, I was told by those older than me, including my own parents. Well, now that we have 2 young boys (Toby is 3 years old and Amos, 1 year old), I think I can appreciate those very sentiments expressed. I can think of few things in life like being a parent that can both test the limits of my patience and at the same time bring so much joy.
Here are some of the examples from today.
[while Amos is eating a piece of a baguette in his high chair during lunch]
Me: Here Amos, I took out the inside of the bread for you. It is softer and easier to eat than the outside.
[I traded mine with his, which resulted in him crying until I traded it back]
[while Amos is struggling to eat a rice dish using a fork at dinner time]
Me: Here Amos, use this spoon instead of the fork. It is better for eating rice.
[Amos clings onto his fork more tightly, thinking that I am going to take it from him]
[Toby is balancing himself upside down on his hands and head on our couch]
Me: Toby, that's not a good idea, bud. If you fall down, you could get really hurt. Sit down, please.
[Toby stops his acrobatics and sits up on the couch]
Me: Good job, Toby. Thanks for listening to Daddy.
[A few minutes later, Toby is doing the same thing again]
Me: Toby, that's not a good idea. Remember, we talked about this. It's dangerous to do that.
[Toby stops and sits up, then a few minutes later does it again]
There are other examples, of course, but I had this common thought throughout, which was, "Why don't you just do what I say? Can't you see that this is for your own good?"
As a dad, I want what's best for my boys. Things I tell them to do or things I give them are out of love and consideration of their well-being. Still, I realize that my boys don't always get it and choose to not listen to me, even when I know what is better.
And from this, I am frequently reminded of the similarities between my earthly relationship with my boys and our heavenly relationship with God.
How often do we turn our backs on God, thinking that we know better than Him?
How often do we choose something, that in and of itself may not necessarily be a bad thing, and cling on to it, not realizing that God might have something better in store?
C.S. Lewis writes in "The Weight of Glory"
"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
When I see Amos or Toby, there are moments (like today) where I find myself trying to convince them of something I know is better. In some ways, it is not too different from the ignorant child who is content with making mud pies. And then I think of myself and my relationship of God, and how I do the same, consciously or subconsciously, choosing at times to occupy myself with good things instead of with the best thing, namely God himself.
Well, being a dad has certainly made it clear that my patience and even love for my boys is limited. However, God's love and patience for us is infinite. No matter how many times I disobey and give in to my stubbornness rather than submit to His will, He waits patiently with arms wide open. Such is our Father's heart.