Years ago, a friend recounted her experience of that parking-lot moment any mom of preschoolers dreads. She re-played the situation for me, trying to hear for herself where she’d gone wrong, reliving both her words to her son, and his responses to her:
“Stay here, honey. Stand with your hand on the stroller while I get your sister out of her car seat.”
“OK mommy,” he said, with a sweet smile on his little face.
“Remember, cars are big and the grown-ups can’t always see little boys in the parking lot. Stay right here.”
“Yes mommy. I will.”
“So, I saw his hand on the stroller and I leaned into the car to get his sister, and when I turned back around, he was gone … he was running away, as fast as his legs would carry him, straight toward the line of traffic! My heart stopped!”
I listened as she groped for words to explain the emotions she’d felt when he ran from her. My oldest wasn’t yet two (and so not running in parking lots), but I hung on her every word, thinking I might store away wisdom for scary days to come. She spoke of the initial heart-pounding fear she felt at his disobedience, which had later morphed into anger. She spoke of how her anger then settled into sadness.Yes, his disobedience had scared her and angered her: he’d chosen to ignore her warnings. He’d rebelled. He’d believed he knew better than she, and his fast-paced steps away from mommy-rule revealed what was in his heart: he wanted self-rule. Mommy’s boundaries weren’t for him. He was sure that he, with all of his four-year-old experience, knew better than she.
All of that was there in her final thoughts — but as she processed through his disobedience, she, in the end, mainly felt hurt. She was bothered most that “at the heart of his actions was the fact that he didn’t believe me.”
She’d known better than he (cars hit small children in parking lots). And he hadn’t trusted her word (he ran anyway.) Her mama’s heart was more hurt that he’d not trusted her bigger and better understanding of his expanding world than that he’d run. She knew that for him to believe and love and trust her was ultimately more important than that he robotically obey.
In the end, she was really sad that he’d not obeyed her words to him. She was even sadder that He’d not believed her.
Last night, I felt some of those same twinges of anger and sadness. My much-older-than-preschooler son didn’t want homework help in the way I was offering it.
“You should write it out so you’ll remember how to write it out on the test,” I said.
“But no mom. Writing it out doesn’t help me,” he said.
“Uh. But you have to write it with the exact commas and dashes for the test. You should write it that way now.”
“But mom, it doesn’t help me.”
Why do I feel angry when he resists my way of studying? What is that other emotion I’m feeling when he doesn’t believe me? I walk outside to think (and to cool down.) And in the recesses of my mind, I remember my friend’s story. Just as her son had disregarded her wise boundary of care, mine also resists my help because he doesn’t believe me.
I’m reminded that, I too, resist all the time. “No God. That way doesn’t help me,” I say.
And I remember God’s patience with me. Listen to what He tells us about His perfect patience:
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (I Tim. 1:15-16)
My Lord displays His perfect patience toward me, a practiced parking-lot runner. He sheds his mercy upon me, a boundary disdainer. He came into the world to save me, a woman often sure that I know better and don’t need to heed His words.
“Ah. OK. I get it, Lord. I’m the same toward You. I so often don’t listen to You, or believe You, or trust You. Oh Father, Your patience with me astounds and humbles me. I’m once again amazed at Your love for me and Your mercy shed over me. I’m so sorry that I run in the parking lot, crashing through Your boundary of care, determined to do it my way. I’m sorry that I often don’t listen to what would help me most. Your love for me must be immeasurable. How can You, over and over, be so patient with me when I don’t believe You? How do You forgive me when I resist Your admonitions? Your kindness brings me to my knees. Please forgive me.”
And I walk back inside. Cooled off, fortified, humbled — and more patient with the little person in front of me.