Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in the wedding of a dear friend, Josh Tingler. Josh and I were in the same dorm at BBC; he has been and continues to be one of my closest friends from the BBC season of my life. 9 months ago, this journey of 8 hours would have been a peaceful jaunt for my wife and I. We have made it our habit to leave the radio off during long car rides so we can enjoy each other’s company more and I eagerly look forward to our journeys and the opportunity they provide to reflect on our lives, goals, and growth. This trip to West Virginia, however, was no peaceful trek for one simple reason – our 8 month old daughter was in the back seat. She is a great baby that generally cries only when tired, hungry, or needing a diaper change. Unfortunately, the first leg of our journey conflicted with her evening sleep schedule, which resulted in her constant crying for the first 3 hours of our trip until we reached the hotel. The following day, baby Tessa had apparently regained her composure and was a car seat champ for our remaining 5 hours! Following the wedding and a brief visit with my parents, we turned our car westward and headed for Indianapolis on Sunday morning. Making the return trip with us was my Mother, who we have been thrilled to host for the last few days. We were nervous about Tessa’s ability to handle this trip as we would be tackling the entire 8 hours in one day, unlike our previous journey to the wedding. The first six hours were fantastic, but she really struggled the last 2. As we approached the east side of Indy, my mother commented that it must be difficult to be an infant because you never know when the trip is almost over. Not surprisingly, we were about a thousand yards from our exit when Tessa erupted with her most vicious cycle of screaming and tears. Emily, Mom, and I immediately thought back to Mom’s words merely a half hour ago. It was if we all thought, “Oh little baby, if you only knew! We will be home in less than 2 minutes! There’s no need to cry – the journey is almost done!”
All our baby knew was that she had been pinned in her car seat for a really long time, and she was done with it. She was completely unable to comprehend how close she was to the comfort, freedom, and joy of her ExerSaucer, crib, and wooden blocks. She knows her parents love her, but she was simply overwhelmed with the journey and needed to vent. I have to be honest here, when her last burst of tears exploded, I was mildly annoyed. “Seriously Tessa? We’re a flipping half mile from our house! Don’t you think I’m tired of the car too?” Of course, this is nonsense to think this way, but we’ve all been there at one point or another. And then, this evening, God gave me a crystallizing moment. You see, much like Tessa, I’ve been wondering about the journey God has for our family. I’ve felt cloudy at times. Lots of times. I’ve just begged for answers and sometimes they are there, but sometimes they aren’t. Most of you don’t know what journey I’m referring to and that’s quite alright, because I know you’re on a journey and you aren’t sure if you are 1000 yards from home or 1000 years from home.
With Emily at work and Tessa sleeping, I opened up to Deuteronomy. Verse 3 of chapter 8 reads, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Did you catch that? It says that God humbled his people and “let them hunger.” Yes, he also brought them through the difficulty and made provision for their needs, but if you are anything like me, it doesn’t take very long going without food to get pretty cranky at whoever is withholding it! He goes on to say the purpose of the hunger is to realize that we don’t get our strength where we think we do. God let’s us struggle so we will see that he is Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides. This thought is further developed in verse 16 of the same chapter when Moses says God “fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” Listen to that great news! The hunger I sense and the hunger you sense is coming from God to test us, humble us, and in the end, do what is best for us. Although difficult to embrace in the valley, the valley is actually for our good! The Puritan prayer book eloquently unpacks this idea:
When you lead me to the valley of vision, I can see you in the heights; and though my humbling wouldn’t be my decision, it’s here your glory shines so bright.
So let me learn that the cross precedes the crown, to be low is to be high, that the valley’s where you make me more like Christ.
Let my find your grace in the valley. Let me find your life in my death. Let me find your joy in my sorrow, your wealth in my need, that you’re here with every breath in the valley.
It is easy for me to look at my crying baby and quietly remind her that we are almost home and our journey has been incredibly profitable even though it was long and difficult at times. When I have access to the big picture, the difficulty doesn’t seem so bad. But as soon as I lose that access, I am quick to question the plan and suggest that I know better. Am I going to take my daughter on a journey she cannot handle or one that won’t be good for her? Of course not! So when I don’t see the reasons for my current struggles, why do I question my Lord so quickly? The startling reality is that by questioning him in that way, I assert in the arrogance of my heart that I can love my daughter more perfectly than he can love me. Can you relate to one of my favorite hymns? “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”
Infants sure do preach good sermons! Praise God for His faithfulness to preach to my wandering heart through such an unexpected source!
What lessons have your children taught you? Leave a comment!