The Screaming Toddler

Several nights ago I was lying in bed with my eyes closed. My mind was in that mirky spot between sleep and consciousness. I was replaying a particular mistake I had made that day.

For no apparent reason, suddenly the image of a toddler appeared in my head. He sat on the floor, his mouth opened wide in a wail, his eyes in slits, and his cheeks streaked with tears. A benevolent parent was standing over him, handing him toys. It wasn’t helping.

Each time the child’s parent handed him a toy, he took it in his hands and angrily heaved it aside. The picture faded.

I need to make sure I remember this,” said my drowsy thoughts.

I reached over to my bedside, grabbed my iPod and opened Evernote, (my trusty “stay-organized-in-spite-of-being-dreadfully-forgetful” app.) My sleepy fingers typed in a memo and I went to sleep.

I didn’t forget it. Even though I was drowsy, I had kind of decided I already knew exactly what it meant.

I am sometimes only a bigger version of that toddler. Just in case a strange image of a twenty-three year-old guy sitting on the floor screaming while his parents try to give him toys, has just popped into your head, and that twenty-three year old guy looks a lot like me . . . I honestly don’t do that anymore . . . much. Seriously, I don’t.

The problem is, too often I do the grown-up equivalent of that scenario with my Heavenly Father.

Jesus tells us that if our parents know what’s good for us, how much more capable is our Creator of doing the same. I’m sure there were a lot of times when God wanted to bless me, wanted me to notice the beautiful, the good things that He was putting into my life so I could see into His goodness, get a better idea of what He’s like.

It’s not fun to think about how many times I know I’ve missed that just because I was too busy wanting something else. Something that I thought was newer, or trendier. Something I thought would make me happy and fulfilled if I was just willing to part with enough money. It’s also no fun to think about how often that’s happened when I didn’t even notice.

I wonder how many times this happened:

God: “Here, look at this nice sunset I made you tonight. Look at the attention I gave to the blending of the oranges and pinks with the dark blue clouds.”

Me: “That’s nice, but uh, would it be morally wrong for me to buy a new computer monitor? A widescreen LED would really be nice. Or to get a Fender Telecaster? They sound incredible and plus, wouldn’t it look great in my room?”

God: “You just don’t get it do you?”

Me: “Oops.”

I think I’d be surprised out of my mind how much God would like to bless me, but He doesn’t very often. Either that or I just don’t notice.

I’m too busy blessing me.

I’m all caught up in trying to buy something that can’t be bought. How many times does God put stuff into my life that’s intended to be blessing, but it doesn’t even make a dent in my mountain of self-blessing, because I’m already stuffed and overflowing with stuff I’ve given myself?

I have a lot. I don’t know about you, but it’d be really tough to give most of it away and bless other people, because I’ve deceived myself into thinking my happiness depends on it. I can think of a gazillion ways that I’d like to try making myself happy with the money I have. I’m not rich by American standards, but I’m way beyond comfortable.

I think I’m not used to needing blessing because I’ve already taken care of that by myself. I’m bloated. I have way more than I need.

What if I would give until it hurts? What would happen? I don’t know because I never really have, but I imagine the smallest deeds of kindness, the most subtle gestures of generosity would seem huge. I think it’d be easier to see life for the big beautiful gift it is, rather than this warped consumerist idea that it’s about getting more stuff.

What it boils down to is this: have I become calloused to the blessings of God because I don’t have the discipline to keep myself from using what He gave me to buy my own happiness?

Granted, I think material wealth is a blessing. I really do, but I really think that it’s only a surface blessing. There are things so much deeper, so much more fulfilling, so much more beautiful than the the things that can be fetched with the dollar.

When we have so much stuff and put so much stock in the material, we “begin to believe that all we are is material.” I think we lose our hold on the idea that we “are souls and have bodies.” We think instead we are “bodies that have souls.” But when we spend so much time, so much energy, so much money chasing the material, it’s pretty hard to convince ourselves otherwise.

There’s a big world out there packed with beauty just because God delights in beauty and he wants us to delight in it too. It’d be awful to get near the end of life, and find out I missed out on the parts of Him that can only be experienced and felt through the things He made, and that I’d spent this time thinking it was something I could order from Amazon or purchase on iTunes.

“4:12” by Switchfoot

You’ve been having trouble staying asleep

You’ve been waking up at 4:12

You roll the voices over in your head

And you try to put them neatly on the shelf

 

You watch the sun rise

Saw the darkness had no choice before the dawn

With your own eyes

And then you broke out laughing from a yawn

 

I’m so sorry I’ve been so down

I started doubting things could ever turn around

And I began to believe that all we are is material

It’s nonsensical

 

So you walk outside and everything’s new

You’re looking at the world with new eyes

As if you’d never seen the sky before this blue

As if you’ve never seen the sky in your whole life

And then the phone rings

As it turns out you are already late

And now you’re wondering

Is peace just a temporary state?

 

Waiting tables and parking cars

You’ve been selling cell phones at the shopping mall

And you began to believe that all we are is material

It’s nonsensical

 

I’m so sorry I’ve been so down

I started doubting things could ever turn around

But I still can’t believe that all we are

And that all of our dreams are nothing more than material

 

Souls aren’t built of stone, sticks, and bones . . .”

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One comment on “The Screaming Toddler

  1. Kim Miller says:

    Wow, so this hits pretty close to home right now. At the moment I am babysitting a toddler whom I love dearly and who also frustrates me at times when he thinks he knows what he needs more than I do. And who has definitely tried toy-throwing! That on top of just purchasing a lens last night on Amazon, and then reading your post has my mind working pretty hard. 🙂 I definitely agree with what you said and want to be cultivate a “soul with a body” mindset. Thanks for posting!

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