The other day, Heidi and I had some drama. I asked her to clean her room. That’s when things got crazy. (It truly does not take much around here).
For the record, she normally keeps her bedroom at a fairly high level of chaos. Before kids, this would have bothered me and I probably would have cleaned it every single day, unable to sleep until things were neat and tidy. But over time, I decided I kind of like it. It looks cozy…lived in…full of love…(read: I don’t have time to clean it, nor do I have the energy to get Heidi to clean it).
She typically does a fairly good job of cleaning her room, but we also help her quite often. Now it was time to send her out of the nest to spread her wings and fly…and clean her room all by herself.
Here’s how it went down:
“Heidi, it’s time to clean your room!”
“Heidi, clean your room, hon! So we can go do something fun!”
“Ok, but mom, can you help me?”
“Well, I want you to get started yourself. Just start picking up, and I’ll come help you in a little bit.”
(At this point her voice starts sounding on the edge of tears).
“But mom, I need help NOW.”
“No, you don’t, babe. It’s easy. Just pick something up, look at it, think about where it goes, put it away, and pick up something else. It’s pretty simple! You could get it done in five minutes!”
Tears begin to fall. “But mom, I can’t do it myself! I can’t!” More tears. The saddest, fattest tears she can muster. And the world’s biggest puppy dog eyes.
At this point, I really am wanting a hot poker to shove in my eye. I grit my teeth. Me being the softie that I am (and the OCD person that I am who knows I could do a much better job) wants to jump in there and start helping so we can just get past this. But I don’t. I can’t. So I tell her, no. Mommy is not helping at all until she can show me she can do it herself.
So she does what any self-respecting four-year old would do. She shuts her door, lays on her bed, and cries. And cries and cries.
Like I just told her Elsa wasn’t real.
For heaven’s sake.
I let this go on for a bit, but I began to get frustrated. Why was she making this so personal and emotional? It’s a basic human thing to do…keep your stuff picked up. I didn’t ask her to scrub down the walls. I didn’t ask her to do her own laundry. (That will all come later, my pretty!!! *evil cackle*) What I asked her to do was well within her age range and scope of abilities. But she acted like I had banished her to a life of Cinderella chores and loneliness forever.
After a bit, she came sniffling out of her room. Hopeful, I asked her if she had picked up her room.
Her lips began to quiver again. “No, but mom, I just want a hug. I just love you.”
This sounds adorable and sweet, but I hate to say it’s one way she stalls. BECAUSE SHE KNOWS IT WORKS ON ME.
I took a deep breath, gave her a genuine hug, kissed her cheek and said I loved her so much but that she still needed to clean her room.
She went back to maintain her post crying on her bed. Being a princess is RREEEALLLY hard. Like…you don’t even know. Apparently.
This routine happened three times. The whole fiasco lasted at least half an hour before she began picking up her room.
She then came out, tears dried, and a hopeful gleam in her eye. I raised my eyebrows.
“Did you do it?”
A wide smile. “Yup!”
I went to check. Lo and behold, the floor was completely picked up. I could not have been more proud of her. I literally got tears in my eyes. (Hey, small victories, as my husband likes to say). I swooped her up into a huge hug and told her how excited and proud of her I was. I wished I had confetti to throw. She was beaming. I loved that for her. Not only was her room clean, but I could see she was so proud of herself and what she accomplished. (She has since cleaned it on her own several times!)
I knew the whole deal was necessary, though definitely not easy for me or for her. It was nearly painful watching her feel so sad and heartbroken, like I had abandoned her and left her for dead, when really all I wanted to do was teach her a simple lesson. She could do things by herself. She doesn’t always need me to hold her hand and walk her through something. She needed to learn the skills it takes to keep her things picked up. And just because I am not helping her doesn’t mean I don’t love her. Once she learned, she could see I never really left, and I was simply standing by, waiting to tell her how proud of her I was. Because I knew she could do it.
It took a few days to draw the parallels between this an us and God, but once it hit me, I couldn’t believe it. Of course. I DO THIS! We all do this!!! How often have I felt like Heidi? How often have I felt God has completely left me in the middle of a huge mess (usually of my own doing) and He is ignoring all of my pleas for help? Ignoring all the times I said, But God, I love you! Just show me You love me too! Why won’t you help me? This mess is way too big for me. I am sure Heidi felt that way. She felt completely overwhelmed by her room. And why shouldn’t she? She’s half my size. That room is her whole world. The mess looked way bigger to her than it did to me. Have you ever gone back to your childhood home and visited your old bedroom? Doesn’t it look so tiny now? As a child, it was so vast. A land of endless toys and nooks and crannies.
I am sure she was thinking the whole time, Mom doesn’t care. She never helps me. She doesn’t love me. She’s left me alone in my mess. Nobody has as big of a mess to clean up as me. I am alone with no one to help. I will never get through this.
Again, words I’ve whispered on my own bed through my very own tears in the middle of my own little world that I cannot see past. From my eyes, it’s too much. We won’t make it. From God’s eyes, it’s only part of a bigger picture. It’s skills learned, character built, peace gained from learning I am not helpless. Not only that, but He really does have my good in mind. He really does want to teach me and make me better. To do that, He must sometimes ignore my pleas for help.
Comfort, He always provides. But sometimes the practical help is withheld. A very hard lesson, indeed.
He sees it from His perspective. He knows if I can manage to get through this, I will learn so much about what I’m capable of. I will learn what tools (and what people!) are at my disposal to help me when I need it. I will learn how to cope. I will learn how to ask. I will learn to stand on my own two feet.
I told Heidi one thing at a time. I told her just pick up one item, look at it, remember where it goes, put it away, and move on to the next thing. I tried to break it down for her. But it was hard to get her to think that way.
We are the same. One baby step at a time in life. Doing the next best thing we can do. Don’t think about tomorrow or next week or five years down the road. Think about one small thing at a time, and take care of that thing.
It’s so hard to remember sometimes, especially when we are in it. But I’m challenging myself to remain faithful and see how God really does provide in the end.
Guaranteed Heidi will still cry the next time I tell her she can’t do something fun until she cleans her room. We’re all human. We forget easily. But I still won’t ever leave her. (I might take a break and sit in the kitchen with yet another cup of coffee, shaking my head at all the ridiculousness…which is what I am sure God does too sometimes, haha). I will always wait just outside the door, and I will always be there for a hug and a whispered, “I still love you, even though you have to endure this.” And I will always celebrate with her when all is said and done.
God will do the same for us. It’s our only hope.
“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.” ~1 Peter 1:3-9