The small chocolate eclairs covered the white plate. I set the dessert on the family room table. “Look at this beautiful dessert! You can eat them while I read.” Three pairs of hands started grabbing for the delicious pastries as I sat comfortably on the sofa, ready to read a family book.
“It’s not fair. He got four eclairs and I only got three. I’m always the one left out.” Without saying anything, I simply look at these children I love. They stare back. My husband sits quietly on the floor waiting for someone to talk.
I open the book and begin reading. The words cover the moment. My children are old enough to know the truth without me explaining it to them again. They’ve heard me say it since each child in progression realized that someone had something they didn’t have.
Understanding the words is simple, but accepting it comes hard. Sometimes even for me. My speech goes something like this. “Life is not fair, if fair means equal. Sometimes you have more than others, sometimes you have less. God has promised He will give us everything thing we need to have a passionate relationship with Him, but not everything we want in life. You have to give Him all of your expectations and gratefully accept what He gives. He will always give you His very best even when it doesn’t feel like it. ”
One day after another seemingly eloquent exposition, they looked as if I had completely missed the point. Their thoughts were written in their rolling eyes. “That’s great mom, but that doesn’t have anything to do with how unfair it is that we have to do chores every Saturday morning.”
Sitting down on the steps, I quickly prayed for wisdom. “Let me tell you a story that I happened when I was young. My sister was having a birthday in a few weeks and she really wanted to know what presents she would get. I knew what my dad and mom had bought her, but I didn’t want to reveal their secret. Instead of just telling her I wasn’t going to ruin the surprise, I made up a list of imaginary gifts. Present by present she became more excited, and she could hardly wait for her birthday to come.
On her birthday the whole family gathered in the dining room with a cake and big stack of beautifully wrapped gifts that my parents had carefully selected. My sister opened each present with a confused expression. Looking at me, her eyes questioned where the gifts were that I had told her about. All of the gifts were opened, we ate cake and sang happy birthday, and yet she was strangely quiet.
In our room that night her disappointment was obvious. It wasn’t that she didn’t like her presents, it was just that she didn’t get what she expected. I learned an important lesson that day about telling the truth and expectations.”
The silence told me perhaps my children were starting to understand “it’s not fair” has more to do with what they thought would happen than the actual situation.
“You see, if you expect you won’t have chores to do on Saturdays, then you will be disappointed every Saturday.”
Well-traveled paths filled with joys and disappointments, victories and defeats, peace and pain stretch behind me. In a mystery of life, God takes each experience and leads me closer to Him without demands or expectations.
He knows about journeys. Jesus left His perfect home in heaven to be born in a smelly stable. Jesus walked dusty roads filled with beggars with compassion and grace. Jesus walked roads with twelve disciples who didn’t understand Him even after three years. Jesus walked into a garden and begged His Father to not make Him walk up a hill. Jesus walked up the hill with joy. Jesus walked out of the grave conquering sin and death.
Jesus lay down His life, and His Father gave it back to Him. I’m learning to walk this path, and still the tears sometimes come. Laying down my expectations, and picking up the life my Father is offering me brings me to my knees.
The Holy One asks me to walk with Him during this season of celebrating His birth to a place where my life is wrapped in the swaddling clothes of death.
I will walk with Him.
Copyright © words and photographs by Jane Carole Stein