So, if you're wondering why God is not giving you all the bright, shiny things you're praying for, maybe this will help. Read on . . .
My one-year-old daughter stood on her tiptoes and reached for a glass bulb halfway up the Christmas tree. Her fingers wiggled as she struggled to grab the bright red orb.
I leaned back on the couch and shook my head. The tree looked silly this year, with the lights and bulbs reaching only partially down the branches. Everything glass I had carefully hung out of the reach of tiny hands. Other decorations were placed differently this year as well. The ceramic old-fashioned Santa was now on top of the bookcase. The green candles sat high on a shelf. And the coffee table, usually decorated with my Precious Moments nativity, was completely bare. Instead the Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, and the wise men crowded on top of the television on some cotton “snow.”
But none of those things interested Bethany now. All that mattered was to get her hands on that beautiful, shiny ball that hung just beyond her fingertips. With a grunt she reached higher, then toppled backward.
“Waaaaa!” came her frustrated cry. She pointed to the bulb, looked at me, then let out another indignant shriek.
“No, Bethany, you can’t have that.”
Her lower lip trembled. Great tears welled in her eyes and tumbled down her cheeks. She pointed at the bulb again. “Ma-ma-ma-ma-maaaa…”
“No,” I repeated. “It’s not for you.”
She pushed herself to a standing position, stomped her feet, and cried all the louder.
I handed her a stuffed reindeer.
She promptly threw it on the floor.
I sighed, picked her up, and took her to her crib. A few minutes there and she’d remember how to be a good girl and take “no” for an answer.
I returned to the family room and glanced at the offending bulb. It really was beautiful, with swirls of deep red and a two silver stripes made of glitter. I removed it from the branch and held it in my hand. In a few years, Bethany would not only be able to touch this bulb, but she’d probably be helping me to place it on the tree. But for now she wasn’t ready. I’d heard stories of babies breaking ornaments and putting the shards in their mouths. Just the thought made me shiver. Bethany, however, didn’t understand that she wasn’t old enough to be trusted with a glass bulb. To her, it was something good, something desirable. So, why would I not allow her to have it?
I turned the bulb over and place it on the back of the tree, even further out of Bethany’s reach. Then, I went to get her from her crib. As I did, I realized my daughter’s actions weren’t so different from my own. I, too, stomped my feet and cried when God didn’t give me the good things that I wanted. I thought about the new book contract I was praying for, my hopes for new members for our small church, the house we’d put an offer on but weren’t able to buy. Good things, all of them, as good as a shiny red Christmas bulb. But for me too, these bulbs were just out of reach.
As I put Bethany on the floor to play with the stuffed reindeer, I wondered if God was also saying to me, “You’re not ready yet. Wait.” What if He was simply letting me “grow up” a bit before he gave me the good things that I wanted? If so, I needed to focus on growing in him, and trusting him to know what’s best for me in this particular place in my life.
For me, like Bethany, that’s been a difficult thing to do. It’s hard to trust. But God says to me, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) And so, when those good things I want are just out of reach, I have to remind myself, sometimes it’s right to wait. Sometimes, I may just need to grow up.