One thing that has surprised me as a parent is how often interactions between my kids and myself mirror my relationship with God. Parenthood really gives you a unique opportunity to be on the flip side of the interaction, where you’re now the one trying to work for the good of someone who you love deeply but has no ability to understand the reasons behind your actions.
This weekend we were unexpectedly provided with the opportunity to see this play out in an even more potent form than normal. As a family, we’ve become very active in (nay, addicted to) Pokemon Go. There was a special event, so we charged up everyone’s phones and tablets and headed out to catch them all. It was a great day, things were going smoothly. We’d just stopped at a drink machine to get a little refreshment and were headed back up the hallway of a local church to meet my sister-in-law. A few steps is all it took. My four-year-old son, Caleb, took off running to close the ten feet or so between him and mom. And then he fell. Straight down, with no time to react, he landed directly on his face with both hands to the sides. Screaming ensued, as did parental panic, and Pokemon was over. One of his front teeth was clearly knocked back significantly.
Thankfully our pediatric dentist office has someone on call for emergencies (we didn’t even know they did that), so after describing the situation to the dentist on the phone we headed over there. Long story short, there are two options and the one which makes the most sense is pulling the affected tooth. Caleb wails like he’s getting a root canal when they just clean his teeth, so we knew we were in for fun. We tried to talk it up as much as possible to sooth his fears, but he knew something was up. We hated the thought of it, but still, it had to be done. As we laid him back he was of course scared, and the dentist applied some stuff to numb the area. I kept asking him to look into my eyes, forcing myself to smile and telling him I loved him. I tried asking him about his favorite Pokemon, though he was having none of that. We watched as the dentist pulled a large needle around his back where Caleb couldn’t see it (have I ever mentioned I hate needles?). Still I kept my focus on Caleb’s eyes, both of us assuring him that we loved him and that the dentist was helping make him better. The pediatric dentist was awesome and applied the needle without Caleb seeing it. It didn’t hurt him, but he could feel something was being done so his fear and panic rose. Still we held him, stroked his hand, and told him how this was going to make him better, and how much we loved him. Finally the moment of truth came. The dentist maneuvered the pliers into place, again very slyly. Seeing what was coming, we told him one last time the dentist only wanted to help him, that we loved him, and that he would be okay. As before, Caleb was numbed but could tell something was happening, and let out a scream the likes of which you’ve never heard (and that dentist will never forget). A few seconds later, which seemed to last an eternity, the tooth was out and Caleb was sitting up in mommy’s arms. We told him it was all over and that now he’d be better and able to eat.
I walked away to check on our eldest, who was in the playroom waiting, and I was physically sick. In fact both me and Amanda were, but we forced it down in order to be there for Caleb. He will likely never know how we felt during that half hour and thereafter. He doesn’t understand how emotionally wrenching it was to make a decision for his health, knowing that it would mean physical pain in the immediate and probably emotional pain long-term as it takes years for the adult tooth to grow in (kids can be cruel). He can’t know how much it hurt us to hold him down, forcing him to participate in something he was scared of and didn’t understand. He didn’t have insight into how nauseous and light-headed we felt actually watching what was going on in his mouth (that he couldn’t see), and wishing there was any other way. Within five minutes he was up and playing, no noticeable difference other than gauze hanging out of his mouth. He was even running to get toy tokens for his suffering, as we begged him to be careful and avoid any further accidents. But two days later I still see his bloody mouth when I close my eyes. I hear his screams and my heart breaks all over. I know without a doubt that we made the right decision, and seeing his recovery and happy play confirms that. But I will always be plagued by dad-guilt for having to put him through it and participate in it. My wife had trouble sleeping that night, and every once in a while we just stop and talk about how horrible it was.
And so it is with God. I know times that I’ve been in pain, facing situations that seemed completely unnecessary. There was no discernible purpose or uplifting silver lining. It just hurt, plain and simple. I saw in the Bible and heard from Church that God loved me, that He wanted the best for me, that it was all for my good. But I felt how Caleb must have lying there, looking through his teary eyes at his dad saying the same thing. “You say that, but I don’t believe you. If you really loved me you’d put a stop this.” But to truly care for Caleb I had to see him healed, and God also allows for lesser pains in our lives in order to accomplish the saving and healing of our souls. After we got home I took Caleb to the side and assured him that mommy and I love him and Carson more than anything in this world, and that we would never do anything that wasn’t for his good. God does the same for you. No matter the hurt, no matter how cruel you think it is that he’d want you to give up some part of your life, whether you understand what’s going on or not, He loves you in a deep and tremendous way. He hurts with all of your hurts, and I’m sure He longs for the day when you can see all the intricacies behind what seems at the moment like simple indifference. Even greater than my pain of watching Caleb lose a tooth, He watched His Son die in order to accomplish your salvation. Just as Jesus Christ trusted God the Father in that trial, being fully convinced of His love and plan to work for good, we can trust God in the same way and walk forward in confidence knowing that our situation is in His loving hands, no matter how we feel.
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