Coming to know God through being a Father

I have a large family. 7 kids, ranging from 1 to 15. Not a flex, by any means, as I think this accurately demonstrates how slow and stubborn a learner I am. It has taken me 7 children to learn an important lesson that parenthood has been trying to teach me all along.
As my life unfolds, it so happens that I have a baby / toddler at the same time I have new teenagers 12, 14 &15. I believe there are valuable lessons and observations to be made from both stages in life, as they are pivotal and defining times. I’d like to share a couple of observations now, both from my youngest, and some thoughts on the observation and attitudes of my pre-teen teenagers, and how it helped me to see the true characteristics and nature of, and develop personal relationship with God.
Firstly, from the baby of the family, little Ollie. (Oliver)
While taking a bath, Oliver has two bubble wands that he likes playing with. These are the long ones you get at the dollar stores, simple things that blow large bubbles.
He’s gotten to the point where he wants to do everything on his own, and he can unscrew lids. As us wise older people know, there are a few rules to blowing bubbles that must be followed.
We also know there is a difference between water, and bubbles. We know that there is a thin rainbow film that appears on the wand, letting us know it’s time to blow, and we also know that if this film is not present, it is impossible for a bubble to present itself. For these are just the way things are, and to have a pleasant bubble blowing experience these rules simply must be followed.
Well, my child doesn’t know any of these rules, and I could sense the frustration culminating in him as we went through the routine of testing all those rules. Eventually, it ended up with both tubes being filled with bath water, and the bubble solution dissolved into the rest of the tub, not concentrated enough to produce bubbles any longer. It was now impossible, until things could be reset, kind of like an iPhone after a child attempts a password incorrectly too many times.
In an attempt to make him happy, I went and got some dish soap and made a new batch of slightly less awesome bubbles. Now, we were producing bubbles again! But… not for long. I thought maybe if I hold the tube he will enjoy the bubbles I blow for him. Again, like before, he wanted to be the one to blow the bubbles. He usually did this by sticking the tip of his wand in his mouth, and spitting all over as he forced air through his lips onto the wand. He can’t quite blow out a candle, but he sure tries hard. He was getting closer with the bubbles, and even managed to blow one quarter sized bubble once (it was more miraculous than science really, a weird sneeze perfectly timed and caught just a corner of bubble film from the wand that was held in the middle with his pudgy little baby hands.) But, of course, he wanted to hold the wand, AND the tube. Again, it was mixed in with the bath water. I realized that this was not a principle he was ready to grasp yet, and that further attempts now are just going to continue to frustrate him. I also realized too much dish soap is not good for his tender little skin, so I decided to put the bubbles away for a time; despite his obvious disapproval and frustration with me doing so.
The next observation came while playing with Ollie, and a little kitchen set received this past Christmas. I sat and watched and even encouraged him to tear apart the kitchen, emptying all the cupboards and compartments, as this is currently his favorite way of playing. After some time he had grown bored, and the cupboards were empty. I started to clean up and put things away while he played with some buttons, distracted with other things. We got these little cinnamon roll plush toys from Ikea that you roll up and put into a little plush muffin dish. It’s cute, there are 4 slots, and Oliver loves to pull them out and unroll them.
While I was rolling up the cinnamon rolls to put them away, it became a fun little challenge to get all 4 in before he pulled them out and unrolled them again. It was funny because it felt like he was almost testing me, he kept giving me the stink eye, wondering if I would get mad at him or try to stop him. He knew I was cleaning up, and he almost expected me to stop him, but for whatever reason I decided to just keep playing along and observe. At one point putting the rolls away he even handed me one, and placed one in the correct spot and I thought he was starting to realize what I was trying to do and to help me. But, it was just a flook… as soon as 3/4 cinnamon rolls were in, and I was rolling up the 4th, it was game on again, and he pulled one out with each hand. He again had taken the lead. He’s clueless, figuring out the rules of this game called life, and how he fits into all of it. It went on for quite a while, and I’d just laugh. He began laughing too and I just stared at him and started thinking about how much I loved him. He looked so cute in the moment, and then, he tooted. The toot was followed by a not so cute red face and I’m sure one can guess what came next. I loved him just the same. Despite the maybe irreverent nature of what had just transpired, the timing and his obliviousness to my thoughts and emotions in the moment. I just unconditionally loved him. His stubbornness was cute, and while it made cleaning take a little longer, I didn’t mind, and even enjoyed spending the time with him.
That led us to our next activity, Shoving peanuts in my mouth. This is the last experience I’d like to reflect on before briefly jumping to the preteen/teenagers. While we were playing the Clean up, mess up game, I had a bowl of peanuts next to me I was snacking on. He has a mouth full of little chompers, and is curious about all kinds of foods. I was surprised when he asked for one of my peanuts, and I let him try a small half while I carefully watched to ensure he chewed it ok. He ate it just fine, and was soon after asking for another. I gave him another, and instantly his hand was in my face again, pointing at the bowl. I put a small handful on the counter of the little kitchen set wondering how he would self regulate them. He didn’t. He took as big a handful as he could, and inserted them into his mouth. In his best attempt he still managed to drop a couple, but rest assured he bent over and went in for those ones too and added them to his collection like Smaug the dragon on his horde of treasure; for there was now no way he could ever chew with a mouth full of that many peanuts. They were now a collection. Maybe he assumed like some other foods, if he sucked on them long enough, maybe they would eventually get soft enough to swallow. I mean… it works for crackers and paper, right? I decided to intervene, because his treasure was a safety hazard from my perspective, and he was now starting to drool what looked like peanut butter from the corner of his mouth. With his mouth now emptied, he decided it was his turn to feed me. The first Hand-full was fine, the fist-to-mouth ratio was to my advantage. The second one felt like enough. My mouth was getting dry, I did not enjoy eating too many at the same time, no more please! “No” is now becoming a bit of a bad word to him, still not understanding the world, and how that one short little word is used to stop ALL of his fun, ever, has taught him not to like being told “No”. So he took a third handful, and I swear, this one was much bigger, and was shoved passionately into my mouth in defiance to my chubby bunny sounding “no”. It was now just too many, especially while trying to hold back from laughing. I took the bowl and removed the now incoming fourth handful from his little hand. It’s funny to me that this seems to be how he would like to be fed. We seem to never feed him fast enough! Especially with yogurt or ice cream. He screams for more before even tasting the first bite! But we as parents know better, don’t we? We know it’s unsafe to have too many peanuts in one’s mouth as it inhibits your ability to chew, swallow, and even enjoy. This is the wisdom we have that they don’t have yet, and will learn only in time and experience. One day, he, too, will understand.
The God part comes in, because reflecting on these observations I can easily see how I could be replaced with my son in any one of these experiences interacting with God. God is described as a loving Father/Mother and if this is true, by God’s very nature, God’s ability and love in parenting far surpasses my own, or anything I can even comprehend. I feel like I’ve been naïve. Ive asked, why do kids die? Why do people suffer? Why is Life so hard sometimes? Do you even care about me? Ive accused. Ive thought, “You’re a mean God.” Ive blamed God for all the wrongs in the world and in everyone’s lives. Ive questioned if God was real at all, and considered God may not be real because of all the suffering; and maybe the idea of no god is better than the belief in a cruel, cold and mean god. A god who plays with us like little ants, with a personality akin to Cid from “Toy Story”, just older and with a beard, and maybe glowing a little, torturing us all as some deranged form of entertainment. I say that because that is how I once viewed him for a time, on some level, if I am being honest. I’ve flipped the bird to the sky before like Lieutenant Dan in “Forest Gump”. I’ve asked “where are you!” And when I didn’t feel an answer came the way I wanted it; on my time table, I took that as my answer. That maybe God didn’t care about me, so why should I in turn care about God? I sought other ways to find this “enlightenment”, and gave God a break. Not overtly, but I stopped praying. I stopped trying to please God, believing it was impossible to do so anyway, so why try. I believed God’s love was something I had to somehow earn, and didn’t believe I could, or know how.
Then I had teenagers. Observing my teenagers and preteen at their worst, I recognize my same defiant behaviors in them towards me, as I’ve exhibited towards God. It’s as if God has a sense of humor, (And I believe that God does) and is showing me how it feels to some degree. At times, raising teenagers feels like raising a toddler all over again. Teenagers are maturing, their brains are further developing and they are figuring out how to deal with all the new changes and challenges in life a lot like an infant. As a result, they often deal with their emotions immaturely through fits and angry power struggles, and it can be hard to deal with, especially when they are now the same size as I am! My son may easily take me in a wrestling match, so getting into a power struggle with him is not going to work anymore. I’m reading books and trying to learn the best ways to parent teenagers, and in doing so, finding I am learning a lot of lessons that can also be applied to my relationship and attitude with and towards God. When emotions are elevated, when tempers are raging, when feelings are hurt, any attempt to show love is ignored. Any kind words are met with a quick rejection. “Yeah right!” Or “Well it doesn’t feel like it!”
It seems the ONLY thing that teenagers want in these moments, is for me to change my rules, and succumb to their demands. To do so on their terms, and when they want, despite bad behavior or failure to do what was expected. We have a strict no sleepover rule my wife and I agree on, and it has been the root of many disagreements. “But all my friends have sleepovers, why can’t I?” is a common complaint, and we’ve been told on several occasions that all bad behavior would stop when this rule was abolished. This is not the way, the rule is there to protect not to take away fun, and we hold to it. Teenagers will sometimes try to convince and offer an I O U, and promise (albeit an empty promise as past experience has demonstrated) that they will make up for today by doing extra tomorrow. Does this sound relatable yet?
It’s hard not to cave in, and do what they want in these moments, despite how they do not deserve it. Ultimately as their parent all I want is for them to be happy, but long term REAL happiness, not short term empty happiness. Bad behavior should not be rewarded. Failure to meet your end of a bargain does not require the other party to still meet their end. “But you promised…” is a common complaint, but these “promises” are usually attached to a mutually beneficial condition. If chores are done, then video games. Like with my infant with a mouthful of peanuts, wanting more in his already full mouth, I know better. I think “I want to protect you, I want you to learn hard lessons, I want you to know that there are consequences to actions and choices you make. I’m not doing it to be mean! It’s because I love you SO MUCH!”
But to them, in that moment, it doesn’t feel like love at all. I may have seen a birdie flashed back at me as well (Tho I won’t say who 😅) just to get me back.
I don’t know why there is so much suffering in the world, why kids get sick, why babies die. But I am learning that for me, there are two ways I can look at every situation in parenthood, and in life. This is ultimately the lesson I was referring to at the beginning of this now pretty long post… (Thank you if you are still here reading.)
The lesson I learned is I can either respond to life with an attitude of Blaming, or Accepting. It’s natural to want to blame, when my kid gets hurt by another kid, my first animal brain instinct is to find out by who and to make sure their parents know about it… and If I’m being honest, I’ve even considered taking retribution on some of these kids myself! Then reason sets in, realization of potentially being arrested or thoughts of “What if his Dad is Huge” set in. I’ve come to learn there is little value in blaming others; blaming is accusing. Who is the one who is called “The Accuser”? Not God… some other dude. God is Love, remember. The perfect love that casteth out all fear. The very Love that created all things, and I can decide not to accuse, but to take the other path, and accept. It’s not easy to always be positive and optimistic. I can be grateful for the good times I’ve had with loved ones before their passing, I can embrace the memories and be grateful for the growth that comes through adversity and challenging times. It is true that facing the hard things in life builds character in ways that only those who have been through can attest to, and they do attest to it. Many of the most influential humans have been those who have overcome great adversity. We can learn through these people, but it’s not the same as having gone through things in a similar way. God knows how this all works. He made the rules. Like we decide not to bend on our “no sleepovers” rule, or like how I decided to put the bubbles away until my son was ready to understand, God has rules that God does not bend on, or that we are yet able to understand. Have we ever approached God with similar conditions? Have we ever said “if you would just show me you were real then I would be obedient or religious or read the Bible or try to be a better person”. Do you see now how this might be a little backwards?
We don’t get to eat desert unless we eat our peas. We don’t get to hang out with friends unless we do our chores. We don’t get to keep shoving peanuts in our mouth, we must eat them one at a time. We don’t get to know God until we learn his true characteristics, and have Faith in a loving, all knowing, in control, perfectly orchestrating life to your best benefit if you would but stop resisting, and patient God. If your ideas of God are anything other than these, they will not produce the Love you are looking for. At least they never did for me. Lately I’ve chosen to try and just accept, and I’ve felt what I’ve been searching for, and it’s been incredible.
I trust that God is Love, and like a loving Father/Mother, God and only God know what’s best for all. It should not make you skeptical that there are 8 billion people alive right now, but should make you realize just how incredible God really is, and that we really are nothing in comparison. We should be exponentially grateful.

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