Follow The Apparent Parent by Email

Monday, May 23, 2011

The view from behind God's door: Holding the door shut so we can progress

God's view of our life is a little clearer than our view of His. Yet we still
question his decisions for us constantly.
Last night, we went to my parent's house for dinner. This is always something my kids look forward to, peppering us with questions like, "Are we going to Grandma's house?" Then the excited squeal breaks out with the followup question: "Again?"

While we go for the food and the company, they go for the company and the toys. As if they have a choice anyway. But lately, we've had some severe discipline issues when we tell them it's time to leave Grandma's house. The very literal kicking and screaming begins in earnest.

This isn't a problem we've had to deal with a lot with our children. They are generally pretty even tempered. Our kids know if they want to cry they have to do it in their room where no one can hear them. Our 2-year old daughter is so accustomed to this routine that she'll sag her shoulders after her brother's offended her, cast her eyes down with an expert flick, jut her lip out like an icebreaker and run to her room whether there're icebergs in the hall blocking her way or not.

This melodramatic performance makes us laugh every time, but we do so as silently as possible so as not to reinforce the behavior. The nice thing is, we usually go and get her a few minutes later and she's happily playing by herself with some toys in the room by that point.

At Grandma's house, though, we have no system set up like that. Instead, when our 3-year-old boy began his fit about leaving, I put him in a spare bedroom and closed the door behind him. Since, like most good bedroom door locks, it locked from the inside instead of the outside, I had to hold the door to keep the little werewolf from busting the door down in his rage. I listened, sadly, as he pounded against the door, cried and screamed while I just kept holding the door closed. It was for the good of everyone in the house. Especially my son, in the long run. Any positive reinforcement for behavior like that sets the course for a lifetime of parents being trampled by tiny feet. But he hated the treatment. I may be the only one it was harder on than him. Though most of his tears were tears of frustration, I heard some real pain in his voice.

I stared at the door handle I was holding shut while it bounced and jiggled under my hand. My eyebrows arched in concern and my heart softened as he tried to get out - the way he thought was best for himself. It was hugely painful for me as a father to discipline in such a way I knew would bring the best results for everyone in the future.

As I held that door shut, I wondered what the view from behind God's door must look like. 6 billion kids, many of them trying to kill each other, all of them looking for answers to their pleas for help. How often must he hold the door shut on us, his children, so that we'll grow in the right directions? The answers to prayer usually come as "yes," "no," or "not yet." But when we so desperately want something, what must it be like for a loving Father in heaven to say "no" while holding the door shut on what we see as a way forward - maybe even the only way forward?

I don't envy His position. My own problems with basic discipline pale in comparison to Him having to tell someone "no" to a life-changing proposition. In the end, He knows best. He knows our strengths, weaknesses and time lines. When He holds doors shut on us, there is a reason for it. And we, the kicking and screaming 3-year-olds behind the closed door, too often ask why He doesn't care while He's holding us against our will.

Maybe the questions we should ask ourselves instead are: "Why is God holding this door shut? What door would he rather that I open? How can I go about opening that door?" If we but understand that 1. Heavenly Father loves us and 2. He is omniscient, we can see that He will chart our lives for our best if we allow Him. But if we keep kicking and screaming, sometimes He'll open doors that should never be opened to us to begin with.

When I finally opened the door to my son's tear-stained face, I did my best to explain why I did what I did. Then I took him in my arms as gently as I could and told him I loved him. When God holds those doors shut so that we can grow, don't lash out at Him. Let him show you His love. Watch for it. Ask for it. You'll feel it. Our understanding of His plan for us will eventually materialize, just maybe not on our time frame.

Have you ever felt like God held a door shut on you that you really wanted open only to find out why He did so later on in life?

1 comment: