“But Mama,” my daughter protested, “I’m doing okay! I’ve kept it down!”
It had been about 30 seconds since she had eagerly consumed her small piece of toast. For the last several days, she’d been sick. Everything she ate made a reappearance shortly after – usually all over the carpet. She had cried and suffered so much in the last few days.
At just four years old, she didn’t understand that the food she wanted so badly would inevitably result in more vomiting. All she knew was that her tummy was empty and hungry and she wanted that food right now.
“Mama, please?” she begged. “I’m better now. I haven’t thrown it up!”
Scarcely a minute had passed since she had finished her toast. The last time she had eaten, she had completely emptied her stomach within a few hours. I knew that her success – while exciting for her – was most likely temporary.
As her mother, I knew that giving her what she wanted might make her happy but it certainly wouldn’t make her better. If I wanted what was truly best for her, I would have to say no.
And so I did.
Her little eyes filled with tears. Tears splashed down her cheeks and her lip started to quiver. She didn’t understand why I was inflicting this discomfort on her when she wanted food so badly. She was convinced she could handle it, convinced she was healed. She didn’t have the experience, the understanding or the perspective to see things as I saw them.
As I wrapped her in a hug, I held her close and stroked her hair. My daughter has red hair, just like mine. She also has my type A personality and my “volume control problem.” She is just like me in so many ways.
And in some ways, I’m just like her.
How many times have I pleaded with my Father to give me something I wasn’t prepared to receive? How many times have I begged and cried for something I desperately wanted, something that sounded so good but wasn’t really in my best interest at the time? How many times have I forgotten that my Father is in control, that He has a plan for me, that He sees the big picture and understands more than I can imagine?
I can’t even count how many times.
Just like my daughter was blinded by the food she desperately wanted, sometimes I’m blinded by things, too. I lose sight of the big picture as I focus on my immediate needs and wants. I stop thinking about the future consequences of my present actions because I get caught up in the moment.
Thank goodness that Heavenly Father never does!
In His wisdom and grace and mercy, He steers the course of our lives. He knows what we need and when we need it… and He knows what we need to avoid. As our Creator and our friend, He wants everything to work out for our best benefit. He is always mindful of the big picture, even when we are not.
Even when we curse and question Him, even when we doubt His love and mercy, even when we wonder why He has abandoned us to our trials…. He is busy loving us and orchestrating our future success. He ensures that all things can work together for our good, despite our ungratefulness. We just don’t have the experience, the understanding or the perspective to see things as He sees them – and He knows that, even when we sometimes forget.
The next time I’m led to question God, to wonder why He is withholding a certain blessing or denying a specific desire of my heart, I hope I will remember the look in my daughter’s eyes as I lovingly refused to give her the toast she so desperately wanted. I hope I will remember the heartache that comes with being a loving parent who must say ‘no.’ And I hope I will remember all the things that I told my daughter.
Honey, I love you so much. I am so sorry, but I can’t give this to you. I know you want it so bad. I know your tummy hurts right now. But if I give you this, it will hurt worse later. Just wait a little while and it’ll be okay. If you can hang in there just a little longer, you’ll be able to have more toast – and even better things!
My daughter is still recovering. Once she’s better, she’ll be able to eat her fill of all sorts of delicious things. She won’t even want that toast any more because she’ll have better choices.
When we focus on the one bite we want right now, we forget about the buffet of blessings that our loving Heavenly Father has promised us. How frequently we forget that we are destined for better things!
Heavenly Father doesn’t deny us because He wants us to suffer – He denies us because He wants to give us better things. Those things are worth waiting for. Countless times in my life, the ‘toast’ I’ve idolized has been ashes compared to the goodness of God’s plans for my life.
It isn’t easy. Like many things, it’s easy to know and recite these truths… and yet it is incredibly difficult to live them consistently. I learn this lesson a little better every day…
….and so does my daughter.