And "misbehaving grown-ups" can learn a lot from them 2001-04-14
I am constantly amazed at how much I learn from children.
And no, it's not in that "children have a special wisdom" way. Maybe
they do, but I don't learn from that. I learn the most from children
when they're being bad.
Let me give you an example. Not long ago, I went on a rather long trip.
While I was away, I picked up a gift for a friend's daughter. It was
just a little trinket, but I thought it was cute. I also thought I was
being rather magnanimous, and I couldn't wait to get home and see her
delighted little eyes when I presented it to her. Sure enough, when she
saw I had brought her something, she jumped up and squealed with
delight. But then when she opened it, her face fell a little bit and she
That night I tucked her into bed. Always the glutton for punishment, I
asked "Did you like your present?" Her reply will warm the hearts of
"I was hoping it was a beanie baby."
Of course, our job as adults is to teach kids that responses like this
are inappropriate. A gift is a gift, and they're supposed to be grateful
that someone cared enough to think about them. They're also supposed to
accept the gift on its own merits, without comparing it to gifts other
children have received, or gifts they're hoping to receive. It's
childish to do any less, isn't it? But then we adults turn around and
do the same thing.
I realized that during a recent radio interview I did. I was chatting
with the show's host about marriage and single adults. Since he was
married and I was a single adult, the discussion was an interesting
study in contrasts. Describing his own marriage, he said that he had met
his wife in church, at the tender age of 23. He described that chance
meeting as a "gift." I, of course, jokingly complained that most of the
rest of us walk into churches over and over again for years without ever
receiving that particular gift.
But, on some level, I was thinking what most single people think when
they hear a story like that. "Why don't I receive that gift? Why doesn't
God send someone for me? Doesn't He love me enough?" Thinking back on
that moment I remembered my little friend and the beanie baby. And I
realized that I probably do the same thing to God. I'm not the only one.
Over and over, I hear the same lament from single people. "I've been
asking and asking for a spouse. God isn't sending me one, even though
everyone around me seems to be finding someone. God must not care about
me. I'm starting to doubt my faith."
I realized that I should start asking those people - and myself -- some
questions. "How is your life going? Any good things happening to you?
What are they? Are you seeing God work in your life? How?" They need to
stop and think. Otherwise they tend to get so focused on the one gift
they want, that they fail to see all of the other gifts God is showering
on them. God knows their hearts, knows their needs, and knows what is
best for them at any given point in their lives. And He loves them. He
is undoubtedly showering their lives with gifts all the time. But, like
ungrateful little children, they throw those gifts back in His face.
They don't want whatever He's peddling. They want beanie babies, darn
I'm using the example of single people here, but the lesson applies to
everyone. We constantly tie God's love for us into the particular gifts
He gives us. Specifically, we tie it to the gifts we want Him to give to
us. And then, we try to withhold our love; treating our faith like a
negotiating tool we can use to get to the goodies we really want.
What kind of spoiled little brats are we?
I think it would behoove us all, in this Easter season, to make an
effort to look at the gifts we have received from God. Where is He
blessing you in your life? Where has He shown His love for you? It may
not be in the way you expect, or in the way you've been demanding. Maybe
He's showing His love for you through a loved one, or through a
fortunate "coincidence" in your life. Maybe He's showing His love for
you by allowing you to suffer, to share in the death and resurrection of
Christ. Whatever the way, He doing it because He loves you. And because
He absolutely knows what is best for you. He wants good things for you.
He wants the very best for you. What's more, He wants you to share
eternity with Him in Heaven. And everything He does for you, or to you,
is aimed at that goal.
And, if beanie babies are gonna get in the way, you won't be getting any beanie babies.