This morning was one of those that seemed naptime could not come quickly enough. The undulating emotions of my toddler had me feeling quite apologetic for every one of my own emotional episodes during my teenage years. The energy and passion encompassed in such a tiny body is bewildering to this exhausted mama. I realize as I sip my tea that no caffeine could give me a rival boost, and that makes me a little jealous.
The word “tantrum” has been recently introduced into our parenting vocabulary in the past few weeks. Sam seemed to test the waters before, not quite committing to a full breakdown, but experimenting with tactical outbursts to see what might garner our attention. I suppose we did not give him the desired reaction, as he has been escalating in dramatics. Say anything close to “no” and the back arches, the knees buckle, and the tears stolen from a crocodile roll. Most days it is difficult not to laugh at him, still there are more days where it is difficult to extend compassion and grace to him. It is difficult to remember, in the midst of my own frayed nerves and worn emotions, that my toddler has no frame of reference or method of communicating what he is feeling, what he is needing, and what he is desiring. My fiercely independent son is easily frustrated when he cannot communicate all that he wants, to the point that he forgets how to communicate what he can in the midst of intense emotions.
Sam knows how to sign for help, and other specific key words that help us address his needs more efficiently, but he often tries to tackle a challenge on his own. I think this is beautiful most days, until those breakdown moments occur. Sam throws his body and cries or screams while I try to figure out what the heck is going on. I ask him if he can tell Mommy what he needs. “Do you need help?” “Are you hungry?” Ninety-nine percent of this kids problems are rooted in “hangry.” After a few minutes and a few questions using key words, something generally clicks in Sam’s mind and he can connect his thoughts with words or signs that help us address his concerns. The thing is, Ray and I love Sam and want to meet his needs. We want him to feel comfortable communicating his needs and wants with us. We do not need him to know the specific, detailed words, we just want him to come to us with “help” or “eat” or “please” so we can help, feed, and give more readily, without the distress.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving followed an intense stomach bug and a week of heightened anxiety for me. As I watched church online from my couch, I began to sob during worship. I wondered how someone could be so faithless, fearful and fragile and yet claim Christ as Lord and Savior. How someone so quick to place their weak eyes on the waves of circumstance and forget their God has the authority to calm the seas could be used to help others navigate storms of their own? As I sat there, tears welling up, I heard a gentle whisper, “You are not so different from Sam.” I looked down at my little man playing on the rug in front of me, worship music hanging in the air, and watched as the Lord placed image after image before my mind’s eye.
Alex, you do not need to know all of the specifics, all of the details, all of the what ifs of what you need or are experiencing. I know those things. I hold those things. I stand ready to help you. I love meeting your needs. I love you. I love it when you come to me and tell me what you need. I love it when you come to me and ask for my help. My heart for you is not one of frustration or flailing. I want you to feel comfortable coming to me as you are, where you are. You do not have to know it all, hold it all, or have it all…you just have to trust that I do.
In the ninth chapter of Luke, Jesus sends the twelve disciples out for ministry with nothing. As they return and debrief, they are met with a great need: a hungry crowd. Their response is practical, utilitarian, and republican as they call for the crowd to be sent home to find their own food, but Jesus challenges them. The disciples had experienced God’s generosity and provision for their own needs during their time of ministry, and now they were being called to extend the same generosity and provision to meet the needs of others. In this interaction, Jesus redirects their focus from the great need of the crowd to the resources they have to place in Jesus’ hands. Jesus uses what they have as they have it, which means He did not call them to go into debt. He then uses the disciples to distribute that which He had blessed and multiplied. As a sign of His radical provision and the complete satisfaction of an overwhelming need, the disciples are then called to gather a total of twelve basketfuls of leftovers.
The disciples experienced a greater fullness when they trusted Jesus with what they had in the face of a need they could never meet on their own. The same Jesus who satisfied the hunger of the multitudes with a kid’s meal is the same Jesus who sits enthroned in heaven today, who whispers peace in the midst of our overwhelming emotions and circumstances, who stands ready to help us and who delights in using us to help others experience His radical generosity, compassion and provision.
As we enter into this holiday season, may we trust God’s heart and His promises towards us. May we come to rest in His help as we boldly entrust our every resource into His capable and wise hands. May we be faithful to extend the same compassion and provision we have received from the Father to those around us, especially our little ones.