My daughter was just barely two years old, and I could see the distress on her sweet face in my rear-view mirror. She was trying to get comfortable in her car seat, but the setting sun shone right in her eyes no matter where she moved her head. I was holding up a piece of paper, trying to block the light, but I couldn’t quite reach the right angle without twisting myself unsafely in the front seat.
I had meant well. Our last-minute jaunt to the children’s museum had been an adventure, full of laughter, quality time, hands-on experiments, and dinosaur bone discoveries. We ate an early picnic dinner in the afternoon sunshine and let the coastal breeze remind us that summer wouldn’t last forever. I had lain quietly on a blanket with my son and daughter for a few precious moments, watching the evening clouds roll in, and then we loaded up into the car for the long drive home.
Forty-five minutes later, we were miserable. It was already around the time of day when my kids were normally taking their bath and getting settled for bed. They were both exhausted from the day’s excitement, and neither wanted to be in their car seats. And that dang sun was relentless, glaring in through the car window on both their tired faces. And then my daughter whimpered, “Mama, home?”
“Yes, baby girl, we’re on our way.”
She was not satisfied with this response.
“Mama, home!” she repeated, more urgency in her voice this time. I repeated that yes, we were going home. But this was still not the answer she wanted. She wanted to BE HOME NOW. And so for the next twenty-five minutes, she cried and said, “Mama, home?” over and over, and over. And no matter how hard I tried to explain to her that I was doing my level best to get her there, she was inconsolable.
These kinds of parenting moments are challenging because you feel a complex mix of emotional reactions. You want to comfort your child, naturally; their distress makes you uncomfortable, perhaps even anxious, and simmering underneath is a strange kind of frustration. “Doesn’t she know that I’m driving as fast as I can? We are going where she wants to go! We’ll be there in ten gosh darn minutes! I wish she could just understand!”
As I said that last phrase to myself, I suddenly realized I had been acting just the same as my daughter with God for months. You see, my prayer life sounded something like this: “God… can we just get there? Whatever it is You’re doing, can You just do it please? I can’t wait anymore. I can’t work anymore. I’m exhausted. I need You to make this happen. I need You to make that happen.” Essentially, I was sitting in the backseat, yelling at my Father that I wanted to BE THERE ALREADY. And He was smiling gently at me in the mirror, reassuring me (without any of the latent frustration that we human parents experience) that we were on our way. We’d be there soon.
I was so humbled in that moment. First, by the realization that I was behaving like a toddler without the excuse of actually being one. Second, by the recognition that my Father carried such love for me that He would listen to me bemoan the journey again and again, and never look at me with frustration; all He ever had for me was love and encouragement. And lastly, I was humbled by the reality that I truly was on my way to where I wanted to be. My God was leading me there. I had only to settle in and trust Him to do it. He wouldn’t drive recklessly to get me there; He would deliver me, safe and whole, to whatever my next destination was.
So now, even if the sun is in my eyes and I’m sick of where I’m sitting, I do my best to refrain from saying, “Papa, home?” Instead, I thank Him for knowing the path and guiding me safely. And in the moments when I fail, and my impatience gets the best of me, I close my eyes and imagine Him smiling at me in the rear-view mirror, saying, “Yes, baby girl. We’re on our way.”