Have you ever seen a child have a temper tantrum in the grocery store check out line? The saga usually unfolds this way:
A tired mother is pushing a loaded down mini-car cart through the isles of her local grocery store. This is the type of cart specifically designed to intrigue children. The seat of the cart is in the shape of a hot wheels car and comes included with a non-functioning steering wheel. The cart proves to be a satisfactory distraction for the child for at least part of the shopping excursion but by checkout time the allure of the cart has worn off. The child is antsy and the checkout line is boasting tempting chocolate bars and colorful sugary snacks. The mini-car cart is no match for Fun Dip and Reece's Cups.
While the Mom unloads the contents of the cart, the essentials for meal making and family feeding, her young son eyes up a caramel and chocolate covered King Size treat and his mouth begins to water. He must have the chocolate. Now. He cannot wait for the cashier to ring it up. He cannot wait to get in the car and unwrap the contents. He must have the chocolate, it must be king size and it must be obtained and devoured in that moment.
The Mom does her best to put off the child. If she told him once she had told him a thousand times that he could not pick out the king size chocolate bar. In fact, she had forbidden him from demanding any chocolate what-so-ever. If he demanded he would be automatically denied. "That's not how you ask for things," she had told him. And now here they were again. Son commanding he be indulged with the biggest candy bar on the rack and Mom refusing to budge.
Yelling, screaming, crying or fist pounding inevitably ensues. Usually all three. Sometimes simultaneously. The boy kicks the plastic floor of his car cart. He tries to reach out of the small window opening to grab the object of his desire but his Mom cuts his arm off at the window's pass. He increases the rhythm of his foot stomping and throws his head back as he lets out an exasperated cry. His outburst echos throughout the cavernous expanse of the grocery store, bouncing off the walls and drawing the attention of fellow shoppers.
In the end the child leaves either screaming and chocolate-bar-less or smiling and sugar-satisfied. There are only two ways to remove the child from the store: by force or by retreat. More often than not the child appears to leave the store by his own will. Toddler: one. Mom: zero.
The scene I've just described has been witnessed by nearly every adult who has ever stepped foot in a grocery store. Children want what they want when they want it. Sugar addicted children want chocolate, sweets and every tantalizing treat. They don't stop to think about the stomach ache or the discipline and obedience training of parents who have taught them "how to ask." The last thing the child is considering is the embarrassing scene they are creating in check-out line nine.
How is it that I can so clearly see the immaturity and foolishness of the child's tantrum yet completely miss the folly in my own?
I am demanding, too. I want to be healthy, successful, happy and whole and I want it now. Actually, I wanted it yesterday but now will do. God, like the Mother pushing a weighed down cart, is telling me, "that's not how you ask." He's taught me better. Demanding doesn't get me what I want. Crying doesn't cure my pain. Screaming doesn't solve anything. And yet I persist in my tantrums. I pass by the vitality and full lives of my fellow man, a temptation more enticing than a thousand king size candy bars, and I start to stomp and cry. I throw such a fit that even a two year old would be impressed.
Like the child in the check-out line I have to learn that demanding my way isn't going to solve my problems and it isn't going to produce a favorable outcome. God, unlike the mother behind the cart, never retreats. He always carries me out by force. He persists in His way and demands my obedience. There is no wearing down of God's nerves. He can't be overcome by tears or swayed by the fear of embarrassment. Even when I yell, God doesn't budge. When I scream, He doesn't flinch. He is unwavering in His parental duty to raise a child that behaves according to His teachings and commands.
There will be plenty of trips through the grocery store with God where I won't get what I want. God will check out without having me pick out the biggest candy bar on the shelf. But that doesn't make Him a mean, stingy Father. God sees that the king size candy bar isn't the best treat for health. Getting what I want, when I want it isn't necessarily the most beneficial nourishment for the soul.
God has the cart full of what I need. He did the shopping, is going to prepare the meal and will serve it at the proper time. No spoiling my dinner with a Twix. No ruining my appetite with Skittles. God has the perfect meal plan and He isn't going to let it be ruined by harmful sweets that won't do my body a moment of good. He cares too much for me to give in to my tantrums. He sees what is best and, through my screams, cries and yells, says, "No." He's taught me better than that. He has better than that in store for me and He won't let a little fit get in the way of my receiving His good and enriching plan for my life.