Through the years, I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with my parents. (By the way, today is my Mom’s birthday. I love you Mom!) We’ve always gotten along pretty well, even in the infamous teenage years when it would have been popular to hate and challenge them at every turn. However, I still had the tendency to sometimes push their buttons in ways that would cause them to come completely unhinged. While we have a very close relationship, there have been moments where my failures or mistakes would send either one of them over the edge.
After one of those episodes as a teenager, my Dad sat me down and explained it to me. I’ll never forget what he said.
“While I will always love you, it’s no secret that we are alike in many ways. On occasion, I see my own sins, weaknesses, and failures coming out in you and it drives me crazy. In those times, my anger isn’t completely at you. I’m angry with myself and I don’t want you to experience the pain I’ve felt. When you’re a dad someday, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Fast-forward about 13 years and I’m seeing what he meant. Caleb became a two-year-old last month. It doesn’t even seem possible that my baby boy isn’t a baby anymore. He is now this crazy little kid who runs around, never stops talking, and has his own backhanded sense of humor. By every standard measurable, this is the most fun I’ve ever had as a parent. Caleb’s little mind is a sponge and we are finally seeing his true personality coming out.
But this really fun stage has also been a challenge. Our little guy is reminding us everyday of why they call it “the terrible twos.” He has turned throwing a fit into an art form. When he wants another cookie for dessert, what does he do? He throws a massive tantrum and embeds his fork in the drywall. When he wants that toy he saw in the grocery store and we tell him ‘no’? He belly flops on the floor and screams until everyone around thinks we physically abuse him.
Over the Easter weekend, Caleb even mastered the art of pouting. He has learned to silently lay his head down in his arms and occasionally look up to see if he has garnered my sympathy. He never has but his performance is outstanding!
The Prophesy Fulfilled
As you might imagine, this elicits two simultaneous responses in my heart – anger and laughter. Sometimes I have to leave the room and laugh because he thinks his tantrum is actually going to make me join his side in the war against delayed gratification. But it also makes me want to scream my head off that he could be so disrespectful or impatient towards Holly.
Like my Dad always predicted, I’m furious because I know where that impatience and ungratefulness comes from. Me. How many times have I been furious with life because things haven’t worked out exactly as I had masterfully planned it? How many times have I complained to God because he forced me down the difficult road instead of the easy one I had in mind? Through Caleb, it’s as if God is saying, “Before you blow a fuse, doesn’t this remind you of someone else? What about the time you threw a fit like a toddler because I just walked you through a difficult valley? Or the time I let you suffer a little bit longer than you thought was necessary?”
The Response I Didn’t Expect
While I’m definitely flooded with frustration over Caleb’s tantrums, I’ve been surprised by another emotion too – compassion.
Seriously, where does that come from? Caleb throws an angry fit because I took his toy away for five seconds and I feel bad for him? Yep.
While I don’t give into these fits, my heart breaks for Caleb because I know he doesn’t understand. His tiny little world revolves around playtime, naps, and food. If he loses one of these things, his life is unhinged. He doesn’t understand the much bigger world unfolding all around him. He doesn’t understand the depth of my love for him either.
So I correct him as any good parent would, but I also wrap him tight in my arms when it’s over. I calmly look him in the eye and explain that I love him too much to give into senseless fits. God wants him to be a man someday and real men don’t make a habit of throwing tantrums over unmet expectations. While my heart grieves over Caleb’s selfishness, it never stops me from delighting in my son.
Our God Delights in Us
This truth is scattered throughout Scripture. Read Zephaniah 3:17, Psalm 147:11, I Peter 1:6-7, Romans 2:29, or I Corinthians 4:5 just to get a glimpse of it. We serve a God who delights in us when we delight in the things that glorify him.
To be honest, I’ve always felt that God tolerates me but it’s hard to imagine how he could delight in me. I get frustrated when I want my ministry to be more successful or my relationships to be easier. I break his heart in countless ways, fail to acknowledge his goodness, and quickly ignore him when I feel comfortable with life again. How could he ever delight in me?
Yet, like a father with his children, God delights in us. His heart is undoubtedly grieved by our failures and selfishness but he still takes joy in who we are. Just as I look at Caleb’s disrespect in light of the future man he will become, God looks at us in light of the cross and his Son who died on it – the living model of the men and women he desires for us to become.
This truth should drive us into a deeper love and appreciation for God. If he delights in us, even in the midst of our failures, how much more should we seek to bring him joy in our lives? How much more should we avoid grieving his heart?
He delights in us. Let us delight in him.