This morning I had a stand off. This was not your average kind of stand off. This stand off lasted 45 minutes. Between two people just as stubborn as eachother, well person A was stubborn, person B was patient, or that is what I am going to claim. Person A was a two-and-a-half-year old, sister of three with a big personality who enjoys being the centre of attention. Person B was I, her au pair/nanny/live in child minder.
Breakfast had finished, and Person A was feeling tetchy. Having held it together so far this morning, when I picked up two bibs from the floor and hung them on the back of her chair, she looked at me, looked at the bibs and promptly swept them onto the floor.
“You will have to pick those up”, I said.
“Mummy, out”, came the indignant reponse, ignoring my statement and any wrongdoing on her part and commanding her mother, who already had her hands full, to help her out of the high chair.
“Who is free and how do you ask nicely?” I asked.
And then, for the next 45 minutes I proceeded to wait as my young charge wailed, screamed and was silent in the battle to say three words; “Emily, out, please?” She was unwilling to utter them knowing that to do so would also be to acknowledge that she had done wrong. And with every passing minute her wrongdoing grew and therefore to relent became more painful. Instead she turned to every possible place of solace (“Daddy out”, “Mummy out”, “Daddy cuddle”, almost “pet guinea pig out”), and then attempted to undo the clips herself. And as the seconds ticked by the temptation on my part to relent and finish her struggle grew. Except that I knew that if I gave in then the lesson would not have been learnt. And it would have to be learnt at another time, in another place, perhaps causing pain to others and more pain to herself. So instead my plans for her day were put on hold.
Do you think in some way on a cosmic scale God relates to this feeling? I know I relate much more easily to my young charge in the high chair than the person looking on. Do you think God is patiently sitting it out as we wail and wince our way to a more fully formed character, reluctant to look our Maker in the eye and acknowledge our wrongdoing? Do you think He longs for us to turn to Him so we can get on with the adventure He has planned for our day but that He knows that if He lets us off the hook and allows us to skip that lesson then the consequences in the future might be far more serious (see Playing the Waiting Game). I don’t know who was in more pain as the young girl battled her pride, her or I, and I feel I felt a glimpse of how a kind, loving God could bear not to answer our prayers when or how might seem best to us. Why He might hold us in a place of pain that He was powerful enough to change in an instant. And I was struck that we should call out to Him, even when it means acknowledging our failures and wrong doing, and keep calling; resisting the temptation to turn to other places or our own strength for release. It also served as a reminder that even in the place of struggle our loving Father is looking on, rooting for us to look to Him so He can open the doors of possibility and the lifetime of adventure He has in planned for us.