Thanks to a hungry child who refused to either eat or sleep, I had an unexpected wake up. I would have catered to the first two rejections of the small snack prepared, but the third was my breaking point. I got him out of bed, sat him in the kitchen with the array of options in front of him and declared that he Must. Pick. Anything. And Eat. Then he could return to bed.
I was angry and tired but I knew that if I could calmly navigate this (torturous) lesson, we might be able to nip these demanding 2am sessions which had slowly become the norm, and help reinforce why he must eat all his dinner. After many tears (both of us, I’ll admit) and a hundred statements of the choice in front of him, success came in the form of a peanut bar that he (finally but sweetly) chose, devoured, then crawled back into bed with some snuggles.
But the lesson had just begun for me. Somehow, in the dark, the judgmental eyes of my heart can see every single flaw in my home and life. The unlit microwave that I can’t tell what buttons I’m pushing. The uncovered light switches after nearly eight years of home ownership. The piles of mail and to-do items stacked on every flat surface. The drawer (and door) that won’t close all the way. The unpainted wall. The wall with color I now hate. The pictures not in frames or any sort of organized format. The shelf falling off the wall that I keep meaning to replace. The list goes on and on.
Each of these observations conjures up my personal flaws.
procrastination. indecision. lack of time or planning. the raise I need to go earn. I wanted to remake everything. I felt truly disappointed and saddened by the way in which I squandered life before a child, my inability to make my environment and my habits match my ideals. And mostly, a sense that nothing would ever change. I hungered for better surroundings, better things, better character, but in many ways, I had refused to do anything about it.
I resorted to my traditional routine when confronting these demons of disappointment: a flurry of lists, clean something out, and order at least one thing from Amazon. Last night, it was a microwave, a plastic bag storage dispenser, and a vent cover for the one missing in the basement foundation.
I returned to bed like someone who just drank too much starting to feel the hangover… the sense that relief is very far away and on the other side of suffering. My strong and kind partner simply pulled me close and helped me feel warm and safe enough to sleep.
Fast forward to the Sunday morning call to worship.
“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.”
Damn it. Ungrateful heart slayed. If I lived in that 2 am moment, no way I was entering any gates with thanksgiving. And so between the authentic pleas for gratitude and the soft onslaught of the mandolin, I surrendered my perfectionism.
I decided to trust that just as I always intend good for my child, and always work for his best even when it means letting him be frustrated and tired and crying in the middle of the night so that he learns this, so I must trust that I am cared for, looked after, tended to even amidst all my shortcomings. In the same way that I want my own child to learn to work towards order, to keep trying, to improve things a little at a time, and to sometimes just do what is best even if he doesn’t feel like it, so I must not resist this lesson in its grownup dose.
And so, I am thankful for ungratefulness that reminds me that I am of little faith. And with much reluctance, I am thankful for each of the broken things in my home that provide a chance to exercise patience, resolve, and creativity, trusting in the provision of time and resources as I honor the responsibilities I’ve been given. Of course, I’m grateful that even if nothing ever changes about my silly walls, my home is absolutely full of love and grace (and food and heat and running water).
And I am thankful that we are not our own, but belong to a Loving Heavenly Father who will be with us and delight in the opportunity to make us better, who can use the everyday stuff of life to teach us about Himself.
PS. Three solid-ish meals and a grateful snack later and it seems something did breakthrough for the toddler. But I’m sure it’s not the last time (for either of us) that we’ll need to learn this lesson better.