Today as I was feeling overwhelmed, tired, and near my wit's end, God reminded me of this story of Jayden from last year. He reminded me that even on the hard days, I am called to be grateful and grace-filled … especially when I feel like it the least.
Here's the story of Jayden and his green shirt that helped me:
It was just a green shirt. A simple green, cotton shirt with the image of a football on the front and white stripes on the sleeves. The perfect shirt for a five-year-old boy to wear with khaki shorts and tennis shoes on a warm day in September.
At least I thought so.
But Jayden didn’t.
Not at all.
He pattered down the stairs in his pajamas and meandered into the kitchen. I popped a couple pieces of bread into the toaster and turned toward him. “Good morning, sweetie. Go get dressed. I put your clothes out for you.”
He grunted and ambled toward the clothes in the other room. Then, there was a moment of pure silence, followed by a caterwauling holler. “Nooooooo! No. No. No. No.”
I dropped the butter knife into the sink and ran to the other room.
Jayden lay on the ground with his school clothes scattered all around him. I didn’t see blood or broken bones or even a hundred spiders crawling over the floor. All I saw was a little boy with a red face, pounding his feet, squinting up his eyes. All I heard was another ferocious shout. “I won’t wear it. I WON’T!”
I skidded to a halt. “What are you talking about?”
“I. Won’t. Wear. That. Green. Shirt.”
I blew out a long breath. Oh great, it was going to be one of those mornings when he didn’t like anything and nothing was right. I squared my shoulders. Then, I tried reasoning. “I picked out that shirt for you because it goes perfectly with your shorts.”
“I don’t care.”
“It’s going to be warm today.”
“I won’t wear it.”
“You’ve worn it before without complaining.”
No answer. He flopped over on his belly and scrunched up his face. Then, he howled again. He kicked, he hollered, he refused to get dressed.
“Bryan!” I called for his dad.
And Jayden put on the shirt.
All the way to school, Jayden complained. And I fumed. I grumbled. I took deep breaths and tried to think calming thoughts. Silly, stubborn boy! What was wrong with that kid, throwing a big fit like that over nothing? He needed to learn a little bit about gratefulness, that’s what he needed. I sighed. He was only five, and he did get to bed a little later than usual. But still . . .
And then came a quiet whisper in my soul. You know, he takes after you...
What?!!? I didn’t throw a fit over a green shirt! Did I?
I stopped fuming. I stopped grumbling. And suddenly I had a whole lot more compassion.
I maybe didn’t holler about a green shirt, but what about when God chose other “clothes” for me that I didn’t like very well? What about when He picked out a garment of praise when I felt like everything was going wrong? And what about when he wanted me to put on an attitude of thankfulness when I was tired and cranky? Or wear forgiveness on my sleeve when I was wronged and the other person didn’t seem repentant?
Often, I didn’t like that any more than Jayden liked the green shirt. What if Jayden talked to me instead of pitching a fit? What if I talked calmly to God instead of complaining and whining?
Jayden may be too little for that level of maturity, but I’m not. I’m old enough to know better. I’m old enough to know there’s a big difference between complaints and requests. When God chooses something for me that I don’t like, I shouldn’t kick and holler and sit on the floor with my clothes strewn all about me. I should simply share my heart and ask for what I’d like. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 (NIV), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Next time when God chooses something for me to wear, whether an attitude or a circumstance, whether sackcloth or fine linen, I want to take my own advice. I want to approach God, my heavenly parent, with thankfulness and a quiet request. “Lord, is there another shirt I can wear?” And if he says, “No, this is the only one that goes with what I want for you,” I hope I can accept his answer without yowling and complaining.
I want to wear whatever shirt God picks out, with gratitude and grace, whether it’s the yucky green one or not.