I used to get a little hurt when I heard Bill Cosby say “If you’ve got one kid, you’re not really a parent.” I knew this was a comedy bit, and I love him, so it wasn’t a big deal. Now, with three kids, while I certainly won’t go so far as he did, I do understand more where he was coming from. There is another level of complexity that exists with three kids that is very different than even having only two. The fighting, the jealousy, the time management…all these things make parenting a little more complicated.
This comes up a lot at our house around dinnertime. We made the mistake when Jaycie was young of cooking only things she would eat. Pasta, pork chops, corn dogs, etc. were staples of our diet because she would eat them, and we liked them, so it was the easy choice. Now, in our finite wisdom, we see the need to cook things that are better for all of us, and while sometimes that intersects with the likes of a particular child, it often does not. Sometimes we are at the end of our grocery envelope, and our dinner choices are governed more by what we have on hand as opposed to what will please the most people. This inevitably will cause some sort of outburst, something along the lines of “Why do we always have food I don’t like?” or “We always have baked potatoes!” My response to this is becoming standard. “Not everything is about you.” I am pretty sure this is the parental equivalent of an owl flying headlong into a closed glass door – just because it is wise doesn’t mean it is getting in.
I am becoming convinced that this is one of those important things that I need to somehow be teaching my children. Not everything we do is about you. Sometimes we will go to the store even though you want to go to the park. Sometimes we will go to the restaurant that we want, even though they don’t have the salsa you like. Some of the things we do aren’t because we love you or hate you. It just is. Some things are done for others, and because you are a part of the family, you will do it too. It’s that simple.
(Are you with me so far? Good, because it is about to get ugly.)
I have been thinking lately about how this principle applies to my spiritual life. With God as the Father and me as the child, I tend to interpret everything that happens to me as if it is about me. If something good happens, God is good and loves me. If something happens that I don’t like, I wonder why God allows bad things to happen or if I am being punished somehow. But what if not everything is about me? What if God is doing something that another of His children needs, and it affects me somehow? What right to I have to get mad and ask God why He is not doing what I want?”
This past January I was struggling. I was lost in toddler world, feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job and like I needed something else. I found out about a job that I was very interested in, but decided I was going to trust God. I laid out my fleece (not literally) and asked God to have someone ask me about it if I was to apply for it. The next day, two people talked to me about it – one of whom was the person doing the hiring. It was a sign. The next obstacle was figuring out child care, and that fell into place too. I told the people involved that I was interested and interviewed the next day. It was a great interview, and I just knew that this was what God had planned for me.
It was a week later that I got the call to inform me that they had chosen someone else. I was devastated. And angry. Why did God even put that out there. Why get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me? It would have been better not even to apply than to get all worked up and excited about it. I felt like it had been promised to me, and then the promise was broken. I wasn’t even mad at the people involved. I was angry with God. It was as if He had taken something that was mine and given it to someone else. It probably didn’t help that this was a few days before my 40th birthday, but that is another story).
A few weeks later I learned that a person I knew had gotten the job, and my attitude began to change. First of all, I realized (actually I surmised – I don’t know for sure) that if she had not gotten this job she would likely have been out of a job altogether. Another manager who had been out for a year on a medical leave was returning, and there were no open manager spots. My assumption is that, as the youngest manager on staff, she would have been the one to leave to make room. Secondly, I later overheard her talking with a co-worker about her excitement about purchasing a new washer and dryer. With this new job, she was able to get some financial freedom that she needed badly.
I started to wonder if this decision had nothing to do with me but everything to do with her. I was just there. She needed the job much more than I did. Maybe God allowed me to interview to satisfy my curiosity, to shut me up. But it wasn’t that God doesn’t want good things for me, but in this situation it wasn’t about me.
One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is John 9. This is the story of a man born blind, and I love it because of the detail John gives to the Pharisees’ response to him, his parents’ rejection of him, and his simple belief in Jesus. But there is a verse at the beginning of the chapter when the disciples first see the blind man.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
To me it sounds like the only reason this man was blind is for this purpose. How many years did he sit and suffer? Did he wonder why God had made him blind? If this is true of him, and he made it into the Bible, isn’t it more likely to be true of me as well? When I don’t get a job, or when my radiator goes out in my van, or when I lose my hearing in one ear because I saved my little brother from the icy water while sledding on shovels (okay, that wasn’t me), maybe it isn’t about me. Maybe, for some reason that I won’t ever understand, another of God’s children was served even though I was inconvenienced. And just as I want my children to accept that in their lives, I should accept it in mine.