[There is an excellent article that says anything way better than I could try to say it, but I decided to link it at the bottom and tell my own real-life version of how true this article is.]
This morning I got humility-punched in a way I never saw coming. It all started a few weeks back when I was browsing Pintrest trying to decide what my daughter could be for Halloween. Then I started to look up cute and clever ideas for what a pregnant person could be for Halloween. Aha! We could be something that went together. It was decided. I would be Pooh Bear (perfect with a pregnant belly) and she could be piglet. Little did I know in that moment of decision, something was planted deep in my heart. I thought all that was planted was a fun and innocent idea, but it was so much more.
The day begun with a trip to Party City. There were a few things left to get Reese to complete her piglet costume that she was supposed to wear in the next hour. I ended up spending a little more money than I wanted- and definitely more than I needed- on a pack of ears, nose, tail, and some pink face paint. I should have known that all my daughter really cared about was wearing the tutu that went along with it. But no, once she saw how good it all looked together, she would be sure to be as excited as I was about it!
We had about 15 minutes until we were supposed to be meeting some friends and their dressed-up daughters at the nursing home. So we rushed inside and I started putting on Reese’s ears and trying to convince her that she still needed her tail and nose. I finally got her to sit still for long enough for me to put a little pink on her nose, and she quickly proceeded to complain and wipe it off. Maybe she just doesn’t know how cute it will look…. I try again. She wipes the pink all over her face and makes it very clear that she wants nothing to do with it. In that moment, with pink smeared all in her eye brows and on her forehead, I respond angrily “Reese, but you have to!”
It was in that moment it hit me- what in the world was I doing? Why did I care so much about this that I would force my child to sit down and have a pink nose and chase her around trying to convince her she needed to wear the tail? But I did. And I was pretty set on it. How embarrassing and petty. I didn’t recant as quickly as you would think one would upon such a realization though. It took a bit for me to really realize just how ridiculous I was being.
This was supposed to be about having fun with friends and filling a nursing home with smiles. This was an opportunity to teach Reese that Halloween, and life, is not all about her. Yet here I was, making it about me. I was teaching her the exact opposite by my own actions and attitude.
My story might seem pretty innocent and typical. It might not seem so bad for me to want my daughter to wear the things I had taken the time to get for her. But for me, it revealed the idea of our kids not bowing to our own idols. Halloween itself had not become an idol. It is usually not that simple and surface level. Deep down, I kept tucked away my own selfish desires and intentions. They exploded to the surface this morning once things did not go my way.
“Our reaction to our kid’s behavior often has little to do with brokenness over their sin and has a lot to do with how irritated we are that they’re threatening our own desires.” (Jennifer Phillips) My “innocent” desires: For Reese’s outfit to look complete, for a cute picture, for our outfits to go together, for Reese to enjoy my own idea of fun, for my money and time to not be wasted, etc. And suddenly, my sweet daughter who really did not want to disappoint me but just was not interested in wearing a nose and a tail, became a threat to my own silly and selfish desires and expectations being met.
Once again, while the article below breaks it down so well already, here are a few of my own personal applications from this morning:
- Defining the “have” to’s:
I want to teach our children a mix of obedient submission yet freedom of choice and expression. Yes, you have to go to bed. No, you don’t have to give that person a hug. I’m sure this is something I will have to continue to navigate through with a teachable spirit for as long as I’m a parent. But after today one thing is for sure- I do not want our kids to ever “have to” do anything solely because my own pride has become wrapped around it.
- The small moments reveal big things:
We see in movies the dramatic you’re-giving-up-your-dream moment and the child inevitably responds with something like, “no, I’m giving up yours!” It doesn’t usually show up in real life this glaringly. But it is bound to show up. So constantly I need to ask myself, “who is this for/about?” If the answer is “me,” it doesn’t always mean what I am wanting them to do needs to change but rather that I need to change my own heart and motive. And maybe sometimes it will mean they don’t actually have to dress up, or say cheese for that picture, or play that sport.
- The picture is not worth it:
One of those unnamed desires that turned into an idol was getting a perfect picture. Sadly, too much of my life goes this way. And it was just another lesson and reminder screaming at me that a cute picture is not always worth it. No amount of “likes” on social media is ever going to be worth my daughters heart. I want my daughter to live life genuinely enjoying and learning and experiencing; not just saying cheese to pretend like she is. If I have taught my daughter that I care more about capturing the moment than I do about her and her actually living; I’ve lost.
- Expectations can be thieves:
I could say, and in fact think I have said, this same thing about marriage. So often expectations of what we wanted steal from what actually could be. Sometimes the expectations could actually be worse, sometimes they are truly better, but most times they are just plain different. Expectations are inevitable. But we must practice holding them loosely and scrutinizing them in order to reveal the deeper stuff our hearts are clinging to.
- Teaching and living humility:
I want to be humble enough to say to my daughter, “I’m sorry, I need your forgiveness.” To say, “I was being selfish and that’s not what really matters.” I want to look in her tear filled eyes when I become the obstacle standing between her and her desire and say “I get it. I get mad when my small idols are taken from me too. Together let’s choose to not let them rule us but rather serve the living God.” I can not truly teach my daughter humility if I do not live it in my own life.
So, there it is. One of many embarrassing and humbling moments that have exposed this reality of idols in my own life. If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to read this one as well: