I've only been a parent now for nearly two years, unless you consider the nine months I carried, stressed, prayed and ate boxes of powdered donuts and bags of oranges while waiting on Joel's arrival. I guess all of that is parenting in a way, too (except for maybe the donuts and citrus).
So, okay, nearly three years.
And it didn't take me long at all to assume I knew what was best for my kid.
Early on, for starters, I was convinced I knew when he was adequately full. I would try everything under the sun to calm or amuse him, aside from additional feeding, and I would even say to his little face, "You can't possibly be hungry again!" When I would finally be at my wit's end and sought to fill his belly, he was happy. The same thing would happen when I would insist he couldn't be tired or have another dirty diaper. He proved me wrong 99.9% of the time.
A few weeks ago he was fighting a small cold and a hacking cough that would rustle him out of his deep toddler sleep at 2 a.m. (and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.....) and so I was adamant about getting whatever medication and/or pain relief down him that I could. The problem was that he was incredibly resistant. He has a mind of his own at 23 months and seemed to think I was trying to pull a fast one on him. Oh, it tastes like grapes, you say? Lies all lies!
One evening I tried and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his evening dose down his throat and into his system before bed. I just wanted him to have a restful night of sleep (and admittedly it would be nice if I could sleep for more than 45 minutes, too.) But he flailed his hands and the medicine landed everywhere but on his tongue. It was on the counter, on his jammies. I finally gave up, put him to bed, kicked on the humidifier and let it be what it would be.
When I turned into bed, listening to his nasally breathing and his occasional coughs, I felt so stressed out. What if I had just been able to get something into him? Wouldn't he be breathing better? Should I have taken him into the doctor earlier in the day and now I was stuck, it was the weekend. Had I not done everything I could have, should have done? He was going to be sick and miserable and it was all my fault. I should have done more!
I began praying that God would help Joel to rest. And the more I prayed, the more embarrassed I felt. Did I really believe that the ingredients in Tylenol or Children's Dimetapp was greater than God? I shook my tired head against my pillow, resisting. No, of course not. Of course I know that God is strong and mighty and capable and aware and present. But if I really trusted my Joel with Him, why was I stressing in the middle of the night about an over the counter remedy? Was God mightier than a barking cough? Was He able to ease a fever better than a dropper-full of Tylenol?
Before I was a wife and a mother, I was someone's little girl. And they worried and fussed over me, too. Because they loved me so much. Aaron and I often talk of the dreaded day when Joel will possibly turn on us and doubt us and fight for his independence and identity separate from Mom and Dad. We all probably go through that phase in some way - some more dramatic and fierce and defiant than others. But in the end we find, even if our parents happened to be wrong about this or that, their intentions were always, always out of desperate love for us. You figure this out when you grow up. The control and the guarding and the long talks when you wanted to be left alone all make sense when the parenting shoes are on your feet and the tiny hands are in yours now.
As parents we always mean well. We only want the best for what we love the most.
What I learned that night, laying in bed pregnant with one brother and listening to a cold rage on the bigger brother in the room across the hall, is that God is supreme. Over anything I may want or desire for Joel - from a fever being reduced to a life full of blessing and more than that, a heart that is aware and grateful - whatever the "more" is that we may dream for our boys and any future children, the truth is that God's plans for them may very well be different than what we have imagined. The path He may have in mind for them may take them where we'd rather not have them go... or where we never even considered. We might think of colleges or sports or specific careers or the perfect spouse: the ideal life situation... but what if the world God has placed in our boys' hearts isn't what we plotted and planned? No matter how good and loving those ideas of our own?
Faith-based greeting cards often boast Jeremiah 29:11... that God knows the plans He has for you and that they are ultimately for your good and for your future, to give you hope and joy. That assurance that even though the future may seem so great and unknown, stuffed with possibility, that ultimately God knows what He has in mind and it's going to be good. When times are hard and we can't explain them, we say that God knows what He is doing, even though we're left scratching our heads or wiping tears on our sleeves.
But what about when you're convinced you know what is best and you can't reason with them? What about the toddler who refuses the medicine that will help? Do you insist, do you coax, do you hold them down and pour it into their bellies? What lengths do you go to in order to "make them better" before you choose to let God be God in the lives of your babies and husbands and friends and family? When do you stop Googling and self-treating before you just give it up and pray and trust the Healer to heal or the Provider to provide?
I have, blessedly, many years of parenting left. And I do desire to do my best for my kids. I do hope and pray that I make the right choices for them while I have the responsibility to make them. But I know I need to learn in their lives and even in my own, that my best intentions may not be God's best. No matter what I would prefer they or myself avoid or what I wish I could prevent or protect them from - the truth remains that as great as my love is, greater is His love for me and my babies.
And I have to trust and believe that in all the spaces... in the long nights when I'm sure all he needs is Tylenol and when I'm convinced only this or that will do for him or for me or for us... I have to trust that God is supreme over all. This world is broken and messy and not our ultimate space. I have to do what I can while I can do it, but I also need to remember Who is on the throne... and who isn't.
The truth is that only God knows the hearts and all the plans and all the paths. His ways have never been less than our own blueprints, His arm has never been too short. As a mother who can fuss and worry about the littlest and the greatest, it's really, really nice to be reminded that God doesn't stop being God just because I'm the one who carries and grows a baby for months on end and gives birth. I may have my children, but God ultimately has them: in His sights and in His hands.
As much as I love, He loves more.
"When you did awesome things
that we did not look for,
you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for Him..."
~ I s a i a h 6 4 : 3 - 4