Heidi often gets her wants and needs mixed up, as toddlers often do. She often thinks she needs ice cream or she needs to watch Dora or she needs to listen to the Tangled soundtrack in the car over and over and over again until we get wherever we are going.
And if she doesn’t get what she thinks she needs? Oy.
I got to thinking the other day that I’ve never been great at knowing what I need versus knowing what I want either. I typically get the two reversed, and then get upset when I don’t get what I think I need…or if I get what I don’t want.
I don’t kick and scream like Heidi does (well, not all the time anyways), but I sometimes throw a mental fit. I find myself begging God to make this or that plan work out…make this or that problem go away… make my toddler sleep…make her feel better…make her behave…make her friggin’ tooth pop through, for goodness’ sake! Sometimes the prayers are a little heavier, a little deeper: God, please heal him. God, please let her get through this. God, please fix this for them.
The more I seek God in the daily and the mundane, the more I see I’m going at it all wrong. The truth is, I know deep down He is good. I know there are things I don’t understand. I know things are not how He intended them to be. And I know His promises go far behind keeping my coffee hot and giving me good days and restful nights.
I am talking about wants versus needs because I recently had one of “those” days…a day I definitely didn’t want. From Heidi getting up way earlier than normal, interrupting my work…to the spilled milk at breakfast…to not feeling well all day…to the nasty bathrooms that needed to be scrubbed…to a sick husband and my screaming toddler at the playground and my zero energy and the baby girl’s refusal to eat dinner but begging me for cookies and the when will this day end thoughts plaguing me already at 1 p.m.
I finally filled up the bathtub for Heidi (at 5:30 p.m.…yes, it was that kind of day), dumped an obscene amount of bubbles into it, and plopped down on the toilet lid with my bible. Heidi played happily while I flipped through the thin pages, trying to find something, anything, to fill me up and remind me why life is so sacred and beautiful.
And there it was. In the Psalms. It’s always in the Psalms. Know why? Because the psalms are prayers. Prayers I forget to mutter myself, prayers I can’t find the words for on my own, prayers that remind me there’s a bigger picture than my rough day.
“Your love, oh Lord, reaches to the heavens; your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice is like the great deep. Oh Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your rivers of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” ~Psalm 36
I read that line in bold several times, drinking it in. It was what I needed to hear.
You work full-time and come home to a messy house and cranky kids and hungry husband? He preserves you.
You are a single parent, not sure how to make ends meet while providing for your child and staying happy on top of all of it? He preserves you.
You are enduring the worst possible pain or loss you can ever imagine, and you feel no one will or ever will understand, and you’re not sure you’ll make it out of this in one piece? He preserves you.
You are embarking on a risky adventure, hopeful and daring and scared and anxious, and you have no idea how it’s all going to work out? He preserves you.
You face a challenge so tall, you can’t see the top for the clouds? He preserves you.
Life is simple, mundane, un-magical, and you feel invisible? He preserves you.
You are waiting….waiting, waiting, waiting… He preserves you.
You are sad and angry and on a merry-go-round of emotions and have no idea how to get off? He preserves you.
Bad day? Bad week? Bad year? He preserves you.
The definition of preserve, according to the Miriam Webster dictionary, is this: “to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction; PROTECT. To keep alive, intact, or free from decay.” If He says He will do that, that means He has to know us. He has to know where we are and what we are facing.
(The second definition was to can or pickle, but I am truly hoping that’s not the definition God was thinking of here).
In the preserving, we may not get the exact answer from God we want. We may not get the healing, the job, the child, the marriage, the great days we beg for. But we aren’t left with nothing. In the trials, we learn perseverance and hope, prayer and patience, mercy and compassion for others in similar circumstances. Our character grows, our hearts soften, and we see a bigger picture.
In not answering my daily prayers, God answers the bigger ones I have uttered: Make me loving. Make me compassionate and merciful. Make me understand. Typical me wants the change without the hard work.
God never said He’d give us what we wanted. He never said life would be perfect, happy, fulfilling, and wrapped up in a big shiny bow. He said He’d be our strength, our peace, our grace. He’d hold us together when we fell apart. He said He’d be present.
It’s ironic sometimes that I get so stuck on trying to teach Heidi life is not about her. I am really trying to remember that myself and cling to God’s promises on days where it’s all too tempting to throw a Heidi-size fit. He preserves me on my best days and on my worst days, and He sees to make me better through it all. How do I know? How can I trust that? Because He is good. You need only to start counting the gifts He gives each day…from the tiny to the overwhelming… to know that.
Besides, whether I throw a fit or trust God, Heidi gets it all from me, and mimics me like a stubborn little shadow. While her mimicking feels like a curse some days, I know deep down it’s a blessing of the best kind…one that benefits us both.
The highest form of prayer is to the goodness of God. God only desires that our soul cling to Him with all of it strength, in particular that is clings to His goodness. For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon His goodness that pleases Him most and brings the most profit to our soul.”
~Julian of Norwich