My dad has this story about me that he likes to tell. I guess I was about 3 years old and my dad was trying to explain something to someone – to me the details are fuzzy because I was 3 and to my dad the details are fuzzy because his mind’s not as sharp as it once was, despite how deeply he doesn’t want that to be true. What he does remember, though, is that my 3 year old self walked up to him, put my hand on his knee and said, “No, Daddy, let me ‘splain it to you.” He likes to say that I’ve been “splainin'” to him ever since.
My grandpa, my dad’s dad, has a story that he likes to tell, too. It seems that my grandparents were taking my brother and I on a walk around the neighborhood, just as far as my little 3 year old legs would let us go. Apparently discontent to be walking behind, I ran past my grandpa and said to him, “No, Grandpa, I’m the leader.” He likes to say that I’ve been trying to lead ever since.
Grown-up that I am now, I always cringe a little bit when these men whom I love tell these stories. I don’t think I come off too well. My 3 year old self sounds, well, bossy. And while I like to think that I’ve aged somewhat gracefully and have learned to tone-down the bossy, I’m just not sure I have, actually. In fact, I can say with confidence that my 28 year old self is still telling my dad and other people how it is and is still uncomfortable with the idea of getting left behind.
I’ll tell you another thing. I think I’m guilty of bossing God around a lot. I think I’ve treated him much like I’ve treated the other men in my life – like I’m going to tell them how it is, like I’m the one laying down the ground rules, like I’m making it clear that I’m in charge. I think my general attitude has not changed much since I was three: I’m the leader and I’m going to explain to You how this is going to work.
The thing is, though, being the leader and trying to explain to God how life is going to work isn’t working for me so much. When I was 15, I told God my plan for what my life would look like before I turned 30. As 30 looms ever closer, my life is not happening according to plan. And I’m not happy about it. In fact, much like my three year old self, I’m kind of a brat and I’m getting pretty good at throwing temper tantrums about it.
But, the thing about God is that I think He’s okay with it because He loves me. I think He loves me deeper and better and bigger than even my dad and my grandpa. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these two men are crazy for me and that they love me in spite of my ugly parts, and I know that somehow they’re modeling to me the Father’s love. And I know that these men who’ve commanded troops and flown into combat zones and looked several United States enemies in the eyes always melt a little bit when they tell stories of this 3 year old spitfire who tried to put them in their place. They get this certain twinkle in their eyes, a look that probably isn’t perceptible to most but that I see and says to me that they are intimately acquainted with this very worst part of me, this bossy part, and are still so proud of me. It’s a look that says to me that I can say the most ridiculous things and treat them not very kindly and try the last nerve of their patience and they still think I’m one of the greatest people on the planet. My dad gets this same look when he looks at my mom – like she’s kind of a little bit crazy, but like she’s the most amazing thing that’s ever walked the earth. Man, if you could only see THAT twinkle.
God’s got the same kind of twinkle for us crazy folk too, I think. Only I think it’s brighter somehow, because He loves us deeper and better and bigger. I think I say ridiculous things and treat Him not so kindly and try every last nerve He has, and I think He’s still over the moon about me. I think He knows the very worst parts of me, and offers me grace to live every day in spite of myself. I think He gets a similar kind of pride that my dad and my grandpa get in telling stories about me, because He loves me. I think I try to tell Him how my life is going to work or run past Him trying to be the leader, and I think He smiles and He gets a twinkle. And man, do I relish THAT twinkle.