I learn a lot about God through parenting. I learn about what it is to love and also disappoint with the way that love is expressed. Discipline is a perfect example. I didn’t ever really understand that part in scripture where it says that The Lord disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:6), until I started putting my daughter, Esther Hope, in timeout.
She cries, she argues, and then she wants a hug. She feels alone and hurt and like her world is falling apart. She’s 3, and this timeout feels like it’s the most serious thing she’s experienced. And yet she has no comprehension that it’s only because I love her that I do it. I want her to grow up to be a decent human being, and so part of teaching her how to behave involves some sort of dicipline.
Since the novel coronavirus pandemic, I have been feeling like I have been put in a serious timeout. It’s actually been very much like how it must be for my 3-year-old.
I cry, I argue, and then I want a hug. I feel alone and hurt and like my world is falling apart. The stay-at-home order felt like the most serious thing I’ve experienced. And at first, it doesn’t even cross my mind that perhaps this is happening because God loves me. Perhaps part of teaching me involves this kind of discipline–a serious timeout.
I could write probably four different blog posts about the different lessons that God has been teaching me during this time. I will focus on this major one right now: Provision.
I’m the type of person who will plan out a day to the T. Those of you with children can imagine how this usually goes for me. If I’m honest, the fact that my kids have completely thrown off my routine has been a consistent point of contention for the past four years–because pregnancy did that too, let’s face the facts.
Planning out my day with timetables and routines doesn’t leave room to be surrendered to The Lord, nor does it leave room to be present to the reality of needy children. The plan is usually tossed, yes, but there is this lingering resentment in my body, as if tossing the plan isn’t suppose to happen. As if surrender and flexibility and presence is a burden.
When the stay-at-home order was issued, both my kids were old enough that I could have a somewhat regular schedule for each weekday. Gym on Mondays, Leader’s Meeting on Tuesdays, story-time at the library on Wednesdays, BSF on Thursdays, groceries on Fridays. Each nap time, I had a focus for that day, and even though my plans would need reworking, I still had several pillars to fall back on and to ground me. But they were my pillars, and they soon crumbled when everything was cancelled.
God put me in His serious timeout and told me to think about my choices. Why did my patience thin so much when needing to be present with my children? Why did I feel being flexible with their schedules and needs was a burden? He didn’t ask these questions in an authoritative tone, but in a loving manner. He didn’t scream at me out of rage to go sit in a corner and think about what I’d done. He quietly nudged me into a safe space to reflect upon the ways in which I had been functioning during “normal” life.
I do not believe my wiring for order and structure is wrong, and I acknowledge that God has designed me this way. I do, however, see how I have made idols of my own schedule and plans. The problem with this is that these are not always The Lord’s plans for me (Proverbs).
But knowing this, for some reason, doesn’t make me less likely to fall into the trappings of over-planning or trying to prepare in ways that I’m naturally inclined to do. And it’s because of just that–I’m naturally inclined to do it. To change this, I needed to come to the root of the issue, which was staring me straight in the face as I wrestled with these frustrations about my tossed-away routine as well as this new anxiety of an unprecedented virus infecting people around the globe and in my own neighborhood.
Deep down, much of my desire to plan and prepare was rooted in a fear that what I needed would not be provided for.
Each time I got irritated with a change in my schedule, I feared that I would not be provided with enough time.
Each time I felt anxious about not knowing the next step, I feared that it would not be provided for me, and I’d be left stranded.
Each time I felt frustrated with unchecked items on my to-do list, I feared that I would not be able to provide whatever my to-do list promised at the time: a clean house, a perfectly balanced budget, the best “stay-cation” schedule for our family…
But here’s the thing: Provision happens in the present, and oftentimes, we don’t even realize it’s impact until it’s in our past.
I was craning my neck to look ahead so that I could get a jump start on providing what only God can truly provide. But as I rested in the quiet moments of being at home with my kids–the episodes of Daniel Tiger, or threading toothpicks through the colander, all sprawled out with the pots and pans on the kitchen floor, I could see where God had already provided more than enough.
I had enough time.
I had enough space.
I had enough resources.
I even had enough sleep and downtime, something I didn’t know how much I needed.
This timeout wasn’t a punishment, it was God’s way to showing me His goodness and provision that has surrounded me this whole time.
This isn’t new for God. He’s used to this kind of thing–people forgetting who He is and what He’s done for them.
In Exodus, when the Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness, newly freed from slavery, they didn’t know what God’s provision would look like in the future. They only looked back to remember Egypt.
But then, in the moment, honey-bread rests with the drew, quail flies into waiting nets, water pours from a rock.
God’s provision is in the moment. It’s right now. It’s not for me to know how it will be in the future. But I can trust that it will be. I can trust that it is.
This is only becoming clear as I look back to remember, something those same Israelites and their descendants were instructed explicitly to do by God Almighty Himself.
This is what He was nudging me to do during this time of unrest: remember His provision, and also, to become aware of it in this moment.
This was something I was not naturally doing in my everyday routine and rush. And even with more time on my hands during the stay-at-home order phase of the pandemic, it has become an act of resistance to not look ahead. Life is slower because of it; I am not on social media, I do not binge watch the news, I do not stock up on toilet paper or Clorox wipes. I have had this time to work at resting in the provision of The Lord, at trusting in His love.
And I realize I have only had this time to do so because of the serious timeout He’s put me in through this global pandemic. Don’t worry–I am not so self-centered as to believe that all of this was so that I could learn a lesson. But I’d also be foolish to think that God would not use a crisis for good–to strengthen the faith of His people and help them to lean into His goodness and love.
This is one of the many things He has done for me. And I will remember it.
This is what redemption is. This is what provision looks like.