Friday, August 30, 2013

On Tantrums and Grace, or Why God is a Better Father Than Me

We took our children to a local frozen yogurt place to meet up with some family visiting in town. The kids sampled various flavours, then we filled a bowl with just enough fro-yo to make them full on the inside and a sticky mess on the outside. Upon finishing the fro-yo, the kids began to get a bit antsy, circling the table, crawling on the floor, playing with a nearby chalkboard wall and adding a layer of chalk dust to the strawberry-flavoured stickiness that coated their arms and faces.

Then it happened.

A meltdown.

A simple request to "please get up off the floor" resulted in red-faced screams and rivers of tears down our four-year-old's face. He wasn't hurt. We weren't even upset with him. Yet the crying continued unabated. I had to be "that parent." I scooped my inconsolable kid into my arms and carried him by the nearby fro-yo patrons out the door and into the night, very aware of the awkward stares of pity thrown my way by fellow parents.

I wish this was the first time, but it seems to happen often. I've noticed, there's a pattern to it:

(Fun and generous action to bless our children) + (Ask them for a simple act of obedience) = Ungrateful tantrum.

We'll take them for ice cream, bring them to a playground, let them watch a TV show past their usual bedtime, get pizza for dinner, buy them a small toy just for fun, make a special trip with them or show them something marvelous and beautiful in creation. They're initially thankful and cheerful, enjoying the gift they've been given. But it only takes a brief moment for that thankfulness to turn into entitlement, which inevitably leads to the meltdown. I get so vexed and angry with this response, which leads me to make sweeping irrational exaggerations: "we'll NEVER get fro-yo again! EVER."

I wonder if God feels the same way about me sometimes.

The same formula applies to my relationship with Him. I can get so frustrated and angry with God, demanding that He give me the blessings I clearly deserve for my service to Him. I throw these Jesus-follower temper tantrums, annoyed with the call to obedience and the seeming lack of immediate blessing that accompany the struggle of discipleship.

Then the Father, in His grace, points and directs my heart to my wife. My children. The teens and leaders and families in my church. The beautiful creation around me. The very breath of air I breathe, and the gift of life and clarity of thought that allow me to even write these words.

These are gifts.

He's a good Father.

Temper tantrums need not apply here.

He's not calling me to a harsh life of indentured servitude to Him. He's not making angry exaggerated promises to NEVER bless. He's simply calling me to obey Him as His child and see the abundant life that accompanies such a calling.
You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!”as we would address a loving daddy. Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. (Romans 8:15-16, The Voice)
Here's a better formula:

(Act of blessing and grace) + (Simple request for obedience) = Grateful thanksgiving.

God is far more gracious with His kiddos than I'll ever be with mine. I'm thankful for that.

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