Today I was reminded again of how similar I am to my 5 year old. We are at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN for the North American Division SDA Teachers Convention. Now, if you have never seen the Opryland hotel, it’s huge…and impressive. There are a couple of large waterfalls and even a river that you can take a boat on, all inside the hotel! There are several of those water fountains that have synchronized spouting with music and lights, walkways that wind through an indoor jungle and, well you get the idea. To me it’s impressive. To Aspen it’s a real, live magical and enchanted forest with living water and way too much to see and do. A virtual overload to her young senses. It was huge fun for me to watch her and see how excited she was to be there. I knew memories were being made and she kept using the phrase she reserves for over-the-top experiences: “This is the best thing ever!” It’s amazing to me how much joy I get simply out of seeing her so happy.
One of the many things that caught her attention was the boat ride you can take through the indoor gardens and around the waterfalls. She really wanted to do that. She pleaded and begged to do that, and she wanted to do it right then. I looked at the cost; for Miranda, me and Aspen it would be $36. On a teacher’s salary, that’s a lot for a little boat ride. I didn’t want to disappoint her so I figured that we could afford for her and mommy to go on the boat ride and daddy could stay on “shore” following them taking pictures and video. The only problem was that I didn’t have my camera with me, it was in the hotel room. It was also night time so it was darker inside the hotel so I thought it would be better to take the boat ride the next day. I explained to Aspen that I wasn’t saying no, just to wait till tomorrow so we could enjoy the ride in the daylight and I could have the camera. It was a great plan, it made perfect sense…to me. To my surprise Aspen dug in her heels and wanted to go on the ride right then and right then was the only time acceptable so we needed to get our tickets right then! I attempted another gentle explanation of why we could not, would not go on the boat right then but tomorrow we could, all she had to do was be patient and wait. Despite my skillful explanation and logical reasoning the response I received was pouting and the faint hint of tears. I was flabbergasted. How did we go from such epic joy and happiness to utter despair in a matter of moments over something that wasn’t even a “no” but simply a “wait”? How can my five year old daughter be so self-centered?
I believe God takes great joy in waiting for moments just like this to whisper with His still small voice in my ear (sometimes with just a hint of sarcasm) “Wow Brett, I know what you mean! How can someone get so upset over just being asked to wait for something better? Why doesn’t she trust that you, her father, knows and wants what’s best for her?” And in that moment I saw myself reflected in my daughter’s actions. How many times have I asked God for something and reacted, albeit with a more “adult” face to it, just like Aspen when He asks me to wait? I can look back in my life and see where God didn’t say no to my request, simply a, “Yes, but not yet”. But because God’s answer didn’t fit with my timing, I become angry or even depressed. I interpret His response as punishment instead of protection. How long will it take for me to learn all of God’s responses to me, no matter what, are motivated by love, the love of a Father to His child. That He, like me with Aspen, gets great joy from seeing me happy!
Yes, all this exploded in my mind in the flashing of a few moments of watching my daughter’s response to me. Now here is the real “kicker” to all this; I had been told this lesson many times over the course of my life. I’ve heard it from my Bible teachers, in Sabbath sermons and even from my own father. Only now, as I lived this experience AS a father, did the lesson strike deep and true. God knew this moment was coming, He had planned and waited for it, the perfect timing to really reach me with this truth. And that tells me that His love knows no limits of patience, no boundaries of time, but that He really meant it when He said that the work He started in all of us before we were even born, He will finish…even if He has to use five-year-olds to do it.
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6