I thought we would enjoy some holiday lights this weekend because we had a Saturday evening free with the kids and no other obligations. I dreamed all afternoon about what would be this nostalgic moment together as a family where we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Christmas in one of the nicest parts of Dallas. We would joyfully sing holiday carols and laugh heartily as we all soaked up this season of togetherness. There would be the clip-clop of horse drawn carriages, the jingling of bells, the twinkling of lights, and most importantly, the oohs and aahs from my children as they took in the wonderment.
That was how it played out in my mind anyway….
What actually happened was more like five minutes of wonderment and an hour of torturous whining in three part harmony. My middle child fell asleep before we even got there. My youngest and oldest sang one carol and called it quits. Charis, the youngest, thought all the neon signs at the bars were the Christmas lights. When we actually made it to the area with the real lights (traffic was awful) they were over it and wanted out of the car. In an effort to convince them that this was fun, we put on our best high pitched, happy voices and coaxed them to “Look! How pretty! Isn’t this fun!” To which was replied “Jingle bells, hey, pppbbbtttt” and “I’m thirrrrrsty…” The middle one woke up about that time (probably due to the oldest one poking at him) and proceeded to give us his line on every road trip “uuuggghhhh….it’s gonna take loooonnnngggg…..” I reminded him that he just woke up. How could he already want to be done?? We made it home after about another hour of traffic (did I mention that traffic was horrible?), many more whines from the older two, and mindless repetitive noises from the youngest. All of us were flustered and frustrated. What I thought would be a nice evening out together ended up being almost a total disaster. *insert frowny face here*
Isn’t that how life is sometimes? Imperfect, tangled, and haphazard. We set out to do one thing and another happens. We get disappointed in the way things look. “I thought it was going to be like THIS and not like THAT.” It’s easy to start to blame God when things like this happen in our lives. We start throwing around verses like “Every good and perfect gift is from above” and asking “how can this be perfect, God? This is nothing like what I asked for.” But it’s no different than when we sit our child down to explain to them why we discipline them. We discipline them because we LOVE them and we have their best interests at heart. We want good things for them. We care how they behave because we want only the best for them in life.
James 1:2-4 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It is difficult to find the joy in trials sometimes. I felt like the joy had been stolen right out of my dreamy evening of holiday lights. But the joy comes from knowing that our Father only wants good things for us. He wants us to reach our full potential. He cares how we behave because he wants the best for us in this life. The verse in James 1:17-18 (yes the very one that follows taking joy in facing trials) says “Every good and perfect gift is from above,coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created”. The word ‘good’ here is from a word meaning useful and the word ‘perfect’ is from a word meaning complete or mature. So what is being said here is that every useful and mature gift is from our Father, who is birthing things in us through truth that we may reach our fullest potential and be an example of excellence, consecrated to Him for all time.
God didn’t make my night of holiday lights go poorly. However, he will use that experience to grow me in patience. In the experiencing of trials, we grow and mature – become who we are meant to be. I learned to let go of my expectations and laugh at the craziness in our van. I learned to hold my tongue when I wanted to shout “Be Quiet and enjoy the scenery for crying out loud!” And I learned that I have a perfectly imperfect family who might just be a little young to fully appreciate the holiday lights 🙂