With the realization sinking in that our lives are about to radically change in a few short weeks, I decided to plan a fun and special afternoon with my daughter. I’d pick her up from school, and then surprise her with doing a couple of her favorite things. I even built in some choices, so that she could decide what sounded MOST fun to her.
As expected, she wanted to play on the playground at school for a little bit. No problem. I had built time in for that.
“M, we have thirty minutes to play on the playground, and then we need to go. I have some things planned for us this afternoon.”
“Okay, mama!” And off she went.
“M, just five more minutes, and then it’s time to go.”
“Pleeeeeease can we stay longer?”
“No, sugar. We’ll need to go in five minutes.”
“Okay.” This time, she wandered off reluctantly, but soon got into playing with a friend again.
“Okay, it’s time to go! Let’s get your shoes on.”
“Nooooooooo. Can I please play for one more minute?” And because she asked sweetly, and I could tell she really wanted to finish the game she was playing, I obliged. In fact, I gave her a few more minutes.
“Okay, pumpkin. Now it’s really time to go. If we don’t leave now, we won’t be able to do what I had planned.”
“Maybe. Let’s get your shoes on.”
And then a plea for just a little more time. Followed by a drama, some tears, some excuses, and then a vehement objection . . . and a little more drama. And tears.
My heart drooped. At this point, I couldn’t carry through on my plans for our afternoon. We no longer had enough time, I could tell she was tired and needed some down time before we met with our community group that evening, and I just couldn’t reward the behavior that had occurred. I was disappointed. My desire had been to bestow a blessing that I knew she would enjoy, and her own actions and choices had denied me the opportunity.
On the way to the car, I took the opportunity for a teaching moment. I gently told her that I had something planned for us to do together that afternoon, but we no longer were able to do it. I expressed to her my sadness at her choice – not in an effort to make her feel guilty, but to help her understand that my decision to make her leave the playground was neither arbitrary nor out of a desire to keep her from something she liked. My decision was because I knew I had something better for her. She asked what we were going to do, and I chose not to tell her. Instead, I told her we’d save it for another time.
As we drove away in a (brief) moment of silence, I pondered why I didn’t tell her what we were going to do. Something had kept me from wanting to do so, but what?
And then I realized it: Part of the blessing was in the actual act of blessing her.
I didn’t want my blessing for her to be a choice she made. I wanted to simply bless her. If I had laid out her options – do what she wanted to do (keep playing on the playground) or accept my blessing (choose my plan for the afternoon), it seemed to take away from the blessing itself.
And then, of course, I realized that all I had experienced as a parent that afternoon had spiritual implications for my life as well. Especially as I’ve been pondering suffering lately. The topic of blessing connected unexpectedly for me. God doesn’t make arbitrary decisions in my life. He has a plan, and it is the best plan for me. And yet, I fight against it for the things that I want or deem “good,” not recognizing that his plan is always better. I reject the blessing that will come from following his lead. For sure, that blessing will not always look like something happy or fun on the surface – but it will always be building, deepening, growing my relationship with Him. And much of that comes from the act of blessing – trusting him that he knows me and loves me and has the best in mind for me – as much as whatever the blessing is itself. It’s not the same when I choose what I think sounds the best to me.
So I’m left with thinking about how one of the fundamental struggles I have with suffering is based in trust. Trusting that he is good. Trusting he has a plan. And trusting that he loves me and has my best in mind.