Patrick took Sam to the store today to pick out something with his Christmas gift card. I'm glad it wasn't me.
Buying things for Sam is seriously fun. He receives presents as if it were an Olympic sport. His eyes grow huge, his grin is enormous, and his gratitude? Adorable.
But buying things with Sam?
He forgets what he loves, what he has been asking for, what he can actually do with the toys in front of him. All he sees are the pictures on the package. He wants the toy with the most amazing picture. Some part of him truly believes he will be dirtbiking through a mud puddle if he buys the cheap plastic toy bike with a really action-packed picture on the package. And the lamest toys seem to have the most wildly promising pictures. Patrick and I try to steer him toward the things we know he loves, like the lego train set he's been dreaming of, but once he's captivated by an empty-promise picture, it's like he's blind to everything else. He refuses to see the other toys - his eyes close and he just says, "no no no no no! Stop it! I want this one!" And - since it's his purchase - we don't override his decision. He gleefully grabs his choice and clasps it as tight as he can all the way to the checkout, eyes bright and heart pounding with anticipation. He surrenders it just long enough for the scan before fishing his beloved treasure out of the bag. He hugs it the whole way home, then races inside, kicks off his boots, opens it and ... deflates.
No mud puddle. No motocross course. No actual dirtbike. Just a flimsy scrap of plastic and a torn package.
Hello, mirror. Hello, me.
As frustrated and sorry as I am to see Sam's decision making process, I can't blame him. He's three. I'm thirty-two, and I do the same thing.
I'm not as easily fooled at the store (although sometimes, yep, still get drawn in by a sale sticker and celebrity endorsement), but when the stakes are higher? Drawn in like a sucker.
I struggle with knowing my own mind. I struggle with choosing what I actually want:, the things that bring me deep-down joy or the things that other people tell me will give me joy.
And God doesn't always step in and override my decisions. He lets me choose. But He does try to nudge me in the right direction. "This," He says, pressing my heart toward path A, "is a good and satisfying path. You will love it." But I shake my head. I don't believe Him, not really. Oooh Path B, now that would be the logical choice. That's what my friend chose in similar circumstances.
And I try to figure it out, with my limited understanding of the future and my even more limited understanding of myself and the plans God has for me. I'm Sam, standing in the aisle dazzled by packages, somehow sure that my parents are telling me to choose the lamest toy possible.
Every time Sam listens to us (and we're only telling him to choose the ones that we know he most deeply wants), he loves his purchases. These are the toys he plays with again and again, the ones that bring him the most joy. But most often, he doesn't listen to us. The glitz and marketing fool him into believing that we want him to be less happy, to make a boring purchase and miss out on a really great toy. Oh - silly, toddler Sam.
We are always looking out for his best interests. When he's toy-shopping, we want him to have the best toys, the ones that will bring him the most fun ... because we love him.
God is pressing this into my heart and I pray it stays seared like a brand.
When His choice and my choice collide, let me always choose His!!! He knows me and my fickle heart better than I do, and His choices - oh, they will bring me the deepest joy, the most lasting gladness. Me? I'm fooled by shades of understanding that barely scratch the surface. I somehow think that the tempting path, the one He didn't suggest, will suit me better ...
Let me throw my own decisions to the wind, and cling hard to His. Let me submit to His great will, and walk free in His Best path.
Whenever I have, I've never regretted it.
You know, when I was looking into 2015, I wanted a word that captured the feeling of this. I'd settled on brave, because I want to be brave to say YES to whatever God suggests. But really, there's nothing brave about it. It's the most safe, the most sensible course. I'm renaming it, my word for 2015. I'm choosing instead the word bow - to remind myself to bow to God's will gladly, fearlessly, with anticipation.
Because He loves me, and He knows me
More than I, more than I.
Happy New Year, friends.