The weary-eyed parents scanned the checkout area at Walmart, searching for a short cashier line to duck into. Mom led the procession, with a grade-school-aged daughter and a shopping cart. Behind her, the mother pulled a sparkly, powder-blue girl’s bicycle, trimmed with shiny streamers from both handlebar ends. Patient Dad followed behind the girl’s bike with a screaming toddler in the cart. The two-year-old sat slumped in a tantrum with head down, tears flowing, and arms flailing.
Next to the boy, and unnoticed by him, sat a toddler-size ride-on toy. It was a tiny BMX bike—an amazing mini-vehicle! Royal blue and white aerodynamic fenders swooped along the bike, accented by fun chrome details. Every toddler’s dream gift, but even that could not distract the boy. Instead, his energy was focused solely on the expression of his fatigue and frustration.
A few minutes later, settled into a cashier line myself, I looked to see the source of new shrieking. Same toddler, but by this time, the family had found a cashier line. Only the father and son were visible beyond the shelves. The boy was on the floor tantruming as he screeched. Obviously the father had removed his son from the cart to allow the boy to flail unobstructed on the open floor. The father’s patient, watchful gaze never left the boy, ensuring his safety without accelerating the tantrum.
I had stopped by Walmart for a few groceries after Awana night at church. As a teacher of 3-5 year old Cubbies, I had dealt with my share of runny noses and tantrums that night. A few preschoolers in our group had those tired-and-crabby, scream-and-throw-yourself-down-on-the-floor type of tantrums. Although my own children had taught me well how to deal with such episodes of acting out (ignore, distract, don’t reinforce), I was still tired after that evening. (And yes, it had been a night of laughter, singing, telling about Jesus, and running around the gym as well, but it was dealing with the tantrums that wore me out.) And so I noticed and admired that patient and tired-looking father.
And then I recognized the parallel: isn’t that just how I act towards my heavenly Father?! Like that father with the beautiful gift in the cart, God has gifts planned for me, gifts that are perhaps even within arm’s reach, but often I tantrum in fatigue and frustration, not trusting my heavenly Father.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
Just like that earthly father loved his son through the tantrum, God is the one who knows me, knows what I need, has a plan for me, and knows how to keep me safe from my own selfish episodes of acting out. God patiently waits through my mess and my undeserving actions, ready to love and forgive me.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
Lord, help me to realize that you are my loving heavenly Father, the source of all good gifts, and the one who patiently waits for me to come to you in repentance. Please teach me that you are worth giving up my tantrums for, so that I can trust and obey you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.