Becoming a parent has made me more compassionate toward God. It might sound strange, but that’s the change I’ve noticed in me. Prior to having a child, there were many times when I would ask, “How could you do this, God?” I would think that He was being mean or not paying attention. I would question His intentions. I still wonder what He’s up to sometimes. But my perspective has changed. I give Him the benefit of the doubt more often now. I know that there’s more on the table than my personal happiness.
Raising a young child has taught me the importance of timing. Sometimes my daughter’s requests are ones that are unsafe or destructive. In those instances I have to say, “No.” Most requests, however, are ones that I would gladly fulfill. It just might not be the right moment. She wants to get off the airplane after 10 hours of flight. That is something I totally want to do as well – just not while we’re jostling through turbulence at 37,000 feet above ground. In that circumstance, I have to not only keep her on the aircraft but strap her in as tightly as possible. I realize my actions may look completely opposite to what she’s asking of me, but I also know the right time is coming for us to disembark. How much more appropriate must God’s timing be in our lives.
Being a mother, I’ve also realized that there are times when I anticipate what my daughter needs. So I offer her some snacks while we wait for the grocery store checkout – before she starts getting restless. Or I set up her blanket in preparation for bedtime. There are some things she doesn’t need to say and I already know. There are some things I know that she needs that she doesn’t even know. I’m a step ahead of her. I recognize this in God’s provision for me, too.
On the other hand, I sometimes intentionally wait until my child asks before I respond. I may already know that she wants a cookie from the way her eyes keep darting over to the counter. But I want her to practice asking. I want a purposeful exchange to unfold between us. I want her to recognize the value in what she is asking for, and to acknowledge the receipt of it from me. In the asking and receiving, I feel like our relationship is being built.
Giving her what she wants brings much delight to my heart, too. I love watching her get lost in her own little world of singsong and books. I love seeing her grin at the sight of her beloved “Duck-duck” toy after coming home from a long afternoon out. I love that she is enjoying life. I can’t help but think that God feels the same way when He sees us revel in His gifts.
Beyond material things, however, there is joy, beauty and richness in simply being in relationship; in communicating with each other and in the simplicity of each others’ company. My favourite times are when we hang out together on the couch or lazy around on the bed in the early mornings. Her eyes catch mine and we both break into giggles. This way of relating – this “being” together – is what the last four years’ journey has been for me with God. It’s beyond asking for things or experiences. It’s beyond receiving even. Can I just be and enjoy being with God?
The other night I reflected again on how easily distracted I am when I’m with my daughter. The phrase, “Prayer is paying attention,” came to me as I mindfully set my phone aside and sat down with my little girl to make playdough waffles. If paying attention to her meant spending quality time with her, prayer is essentially quality time with God!
Being a mother has brought me into a new realm and understanding of love in the context of the parent-child relationship. And isn’t that what prayer is: an exchange and expression of that love?
[Note: If you liked this post, you would probably enjoy this other one that I wrote in my early mothering days.]
Photo credit: Tim Chan | Design: Olive Chan