Since becoming a parent I have often had to stop and laugh at some of the things that I have had to say to my children:
Stop licking the walls.
Don’t hit the baby with the lightsaber.
The dog is not a horse.
But I’ve noticed recently that some of the things I say to my kids are actually what I need to hear.
One of our children in particular has a way of exposing many of the not-so-nice things in my heart. She is our whiner, always walking around with a little cloud over her head, always certain things are going to turn out badly for her. We often say that if there is something to complain about, she will find it. She is always on the lookout for ways she is being treated unfairly, and things never seem up to her standards. It takes a lot of energy to parent her with a smile when what I really want to do is scowl right back at her.
One afternoon, while in the middle of yet another bout of complaints from this daughter, when I had tried everything I could think of to snap her out of the foul mood, I finally knelt down, held her little face in my hands and said to her, “Child, look at my eyes. Can you trust me to do what is right for you?”
And it hit me right in that moment, even as I was about to lose it with my kid, how the Holy Spirit whispers that very same thing to my own heart. How often have I been unhappy with what the hand of God has given me? Do I allow myself to compare and grumble in my heart when my circumstances don’t seem quite fair? Am I guilty of thinking I know better than my heavenly father?
God is no stranger to whining children. In the book of Exodus we read about the people of Israel, the people God had chosen and treasured. Because of their disobedience to God they were wandering in the desert, hungry and begging God for food. So God sent them manna, something that tasted like wafers made with honey, something they had never seen before. This manna was His perfect, miraculous provision for them. And what did they do? They complained about it. How like a child! How like me. If I really believed God to be trustworthy to provide what I need I would be willing to turn my eyes fully to Him and say, “Daddy, I trust You. I know you will do what is right for me.”
My tendency is to treat my child’s whining as something that simply needs to be trained out of her. I tell myself that with enough consistent correcting and reminding the problem will eventually go away. She’ll mature out of it. But I’ve come to realize that the problem may be much deeper than that. An attitude of discontentment is rooted in a heart of distrust and unfaithfulness. Certainly training will help the outward expression of this inward self-reliance, but unless I am willing to dig deeper and and help my child expose the sin in her heart, I will have missed the point. What I want for my children is more than outward compliance. I desire heart change. For them, and for myself.
We have not completely solved the whining problem in our house. But I am learning to approach it with more compassion, recognizing that the same problem lives in my heart, too. And my prayer for my daughter is that she will find the joy and contentment that comes not from doing what I want her to do, but from obeying the One who can transform both our hearts.