My wife and I have been blessed enough to move into a new home. While we’re thankful for the luxury of a roof over our heads that so many go without, the actual moving part is a strain. Fortunately (or not), we’ve moved enough that we’ve found a bit of a rhythm. We get the large furniture items in first, then pack our folded clothes in bags, lay our hanging clothes on top of the bags in the car so we don’t have to take them off the hangers, and then we can put everything right into its place with minimal packing and unpacking. As moving veterans, we’d learned all the tricks of the trade, but that all went out the window with this move. This time, we had our nineteen-month old son with us.
Despite my confidence, I soon found myself to be a novice in moving with a child. I didn’t account for all the stuff a baby has, and I didn’t calculate that at least one of us would have no choice but to chase around our son while the other tried desperately to put things in order before Tripp could get his hands on them. In the past, we would just dump everything in our new place, make our bed, and casually unpack in all our ample free time.
Never before did we consider adjusting to our new environment before moving in. We just went. It didn’t even cross my mind that Tripp might not be on board with this strategy until I started rolling up the rug in his room and he cried his favorite word at me, “No!” On top of all of this, he got an upset stomach and refused to eat, so our diminished free time all but disappeared.
Needless to say, my plans didn’t go as planned, and after some deep breaths, contemplation, and time, I realized that was a good thing.
So often, we make a plan and focus so intently at executing our plan just so, that we miss the bigger picture. We spend hours pouring over the making of our plans, we worry about our plans, and we grieve them when they don’t go as planned. But, that’s not how we were meant to live –
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25-30)
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with making plans. We are not meant to float through life without using our God-given talents. But, when we seize such tight control over our lives, we squander something much more important than our talents – we lose faith.
I realized that I was learning to strengthen my faith as my toddler fussed, cried, stomped, and smacked at my wife’s and my frayed nerves. My plan had worked in the past, and it should work again, but my son was denying me my plan, which had me frustrated with him, and then unfairly with my wife who was sharing in my situation. When I stepped back and considered it, my family was far more valuable to me than my stupid moving plan. If we left our stuff in boxes sitting in the middle of the living room for twenty years, it wouldn’t affect our ability to live (unless my wife killed me for it). I had to shift my focus away from my selfishness – that’s what being obsessed with our plans really is, isn’t it? – and I had to trust God that this new plan, the one involving caring for, loving, and helping our young son adjust to such a foundation-shaking change, would work out better than we could have imagined.
Beyond the lesson in faith, I believe I learned an even greater lesson – one in love. So often, we let things come between us and the people that matter most. My wife and son matter more than a house. Pleasing them and loving them should be my main focus at all times, not just in my free time.
This practice of always loving us despite what else is going on shapes God’s plans for our lives. We spend so much time acting just like my toddler – stomping our feet, putting our heads down, screaming, and insisting on our own way. It may be in a bad habit we refuse to kick, a grudge we won’t let go, or a false idol we won’t stop chasing. All these acts of our will before God amount to a toddler throwing a tantrum. We can burn as much energy as we like fighting it, but God’s way will prevail.
Unlike imperfect, human fathers like me, God patiently waits for our temper tantrums to subside. His Son shows us compassion, as a human being who has felt our fears, frustrations, and disappointments. And, when we’re finally ready to listen to Him, to quit our tantrum and abide by His plans, He provides more abundantly than we hoped for –
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)