I learned a valuable lesson from my four-year recently. His daily progress comes to us in the form of behavior charts so my husband and I promise him rewards if he can “stay on green” for a week. This feat has proved much harder than anticipated for both him and ourselves. He can go a month without a “big” reward. Just as he is on a roll, the school has mass, and he cannot keep still. Or he decides to play with a friend during carpet time. The process starts over, and he is back at day 1 of 5.
On his most recent stream of success, he behaved wonderfully for five straight days reminding me every day that he got closer that he wanted gold Thomas as his reward. “3 more days until gold Thomas mommy.” “2 more days…” “Tomorrow, can we go to get gold Thomas?” In my mind, I anticipate the cost of said toy and hope that it will not run me more than $50. The day arrives, and he begs to go with me to the store to get his prize. I oblige, mostly because I do not know that I would actually recognize gold Thomas. I may, instead, spend a large portion of my time looking in the Thomas the Tank Engine section of the store, dreading the associated pricing. We get to the proper area of the toys, and he immediately spots the toy he worked to hard to obtain. “There’s gold Thomas mommy!” Confused, I respond, “where?” Not one single train that I see in front of me is gold, and he picks it up. “It’s right here, but I don’t want him anymore. I want Percy instead.” Flabbergasted, I eye gold Thomas. He is approximately 1 inch long by 1 inch tall. The container that houses the mini engine and has spaces to hold 15 other engines has got to be worth more than the actual toy (price: $12.97).
I pull myself together, and we spend a grand total of 5 minutes where I lift and he shoots down at least 10 versions of Percy. Eventually, he stops me, picks up James, and says we can go. I was more than happy to oblige, but curiosity forced me to ask, “What happened to Percy?” His response, “there were too many different types of Percy.”
Such profound words from such a small soul.
How many of us do the same thing, day in and day out? We give everything we have to something or someone, a job or a person or a personal passion, only to get exactly what we want. And then we decide this is not really what we wanted. So we pray for something else only to realize, we do not want that either. It is just like what everyone else has. “There are too many different types.” What we really want deep down inside is the best version of ourselves – to become exactly who we were meant to be, live the lives we were destined to live. We want the world to embrace and celebrate our uniqueness – to see the extraordinary in our ordinary. We want James, and we have really wanted James all along.
I had an interesting discussion with my sister this morning. As Valentine’s Day lingers in the air, discussions about married life, dating life, and single life all run rampant. A friend of hers posted a status that essentially asked what was so great about married life. Of course, people had plenty to say on both sides of the issue. My sister rendered some opinions invalid because those people had “never really been single,” and I offered her the perspective that I could render another half of the opinions invalid because those people had “never been married.” But single and married do not really attack the heart of the issue. The real lessons are much deeper than a holiday and a marital status.
The real lessons come from the 4-year old. What is it that you really want? Love? Companionship? Or on the other side of the issue…self-reliance? Independence? What is it that you are working to hard to obtain? And is it really what you want for all the work you are putting in? When you pray at night, have you already formulated the way you want God to answer? I would venture to say that our prayers sound much like the words of my son as he put in so much effort to gain a prize not much larger than the size of a quarter and worth less than the box that holds it.
Or do we instead pray for a life lived where we are walking in the right direction, and trust that eventually the life God has to offer is better than gold Thomas or a different version of someone else’s life?
Do we accept instead that God had James in mind?