Overall, my 7 year old son has adjusted well to life in Kansas City after our move from up north in September. There are times, however, when he is almost brought to tears in thinking about all that we left in Minnesota. What I find fascinating is the specific things he laments losing. For instance, he talks a lot about his “best friend”, whom I will call Cole. Cole is a kid who is a grade ahead of my son and with whom he had maybe a total of 5 play dates the whole time we lived there. When he talks about Cole and how much he misses him, I am sympathetic, but I can’t help but picturing what things would have been like if we had stayed. Cole, now a 2nd grader, would be so wrapped up in school and activities that my son and he would rarely, if ever have time to play. I marvel at the other friends he left that I know he misses, but that he forgets to mention.
Likewise, I know that when my son talks of moving back to Minnesota, he is picturing life there just as it was last year when he was in Kindergarten. Yet I know that even in the few short months since we left, our friends there have changed, and so have we. He doesn’t realize that if we moved back tomorrow that he would miss the new group of friends he has met here. He doesn’t take into account that we made a commitment to our job here and have no jobs in Minnesota anymore. He doesn’t get the fact that other people are living in our house and that we have signed a contract to rent our Kansas City house until the end of the summer. He definitely does not understand that moving an entire house full of things so soon after moving them the first time would certainly turn his mother’s head prematurely grey! What he understands when he suggests we move back is an expression of his feelings at the moment, an expression of affection for all that he loved about living up north. A good parent empathizes, but also sees that granting the request will not make him as happy as he thinks. As parents, we have a greater perspective.
Lack of perspective is not a 7-year-old’s problem. It’s a fallen humanity problem. Look at the Israelites in the desert. God had freed them from slavery, promised them a land of their own, made them his own people and provided for their every need. Yet, at every turn they found reason to panic and complain. They went even so far as to reminisce about how great the food had been in Egypt! Never mind the backbreaking slave labor, darn it! In Egypt they had onions!
This situation with my son has been an opportunity for me to reflect on my own perspective on things. Often I get frustrated at God for not following what I thought the plan should be. I grumbled each time I made a double house payment while we waited for a renter for our Minnesota home. Heck, I grumble when I hit three red lights in a row when I am in a hurry. We are very wrapped up in our day to day struggles and so it can be very difficult to understand why God is holding back on granting us what we believe to be a perfectly reasonable prayer request. We can even become despondent and angry with God.
If it’s true with relatively small things like house payments and red lights, it is much more profound when the stakes are higher. I understand this, too. We prayed for the miraculous recovery of two of our children, and both times God said no. While our obvious preference would have been the miracle, my husband and I were forced to gain a new perspective from our losses. We were forced to look beyond our pain and see the truth: our job as parents is to get our children to heaven, and two of ours have already arrived! We were also reminded that our suffering, offered in union with Jesus on the Cross, could be used for the conversion of those who needed some extra grace to make it to heaven themselves. This perspective didn’t remove the grief, but it did help us to turn toward God instead of becoming bitter.
The Church has always recommended fasting, and this is the reason: fasting helps us gain perspective. When we fast, we give up an earthly good in order to gain a spiritual good. We are reminding ourselves that the spiritual goods are more important. Lent is coming up, and Lent is a season of fine tuning our perspective. This is a good time to look at what in our lives is giving us myopia. What kind of perspective does my family need to grow in? Are we getting kind of spoiled by material goods? Maybe we need to sacrificially give stuff away and meet people who are happy with much less. Are we bored all the time? Maybe we need to ditch our ipads and TV for 6 weeks and rediscover each other’s company. Do we feel far from God? Maybe we should get to confession, get Mass attendance in check and/or begin some simple family prayer.
In big and in small things, we do well to acknowledge that God has a much fuller picture of the situation. If we believe that he does love us, we can trust that even when we don’t understand things completely, they are being done for our good. Here’s to a Lent full of perspective!
Copyright 2012 Libby DuPont