One thing I learned pretty quickly after becoming a parent is that if you want to see yourself in an honest, unpolished light, look closely at your children. Little mirrors, they are. And sometimes, the news isn't pretty.
My sons are 12 and 5 and, as all children do, have been known to get pretty wrapped up in themselves. Gee, I wonder where they learned that from? They seem to operate under the misguided universal notion that life should be fair and equal. Am I raising some little socialists? No, no, no.
"He got more macaroni than I did..."
"He has more markers than I do..."
"Why does he get to go with Daddy to the gas station and I don't? It's not fair..."
It's that inborn "me first and foremost" attitude that drives me up the wall--in them and in myself. How many times this week have I heard myself say "He's your brother. Don't be self-centered"? Too many. How many times have I said "Lord, why...?" thinking I had a better plan than the author of the big picture or that I had somehow been deprived of something that someone else had or had access to?
Silly, silly children we can all be.
One of the things I want my sons to learn how to do is to put other people before themselves--without being asked and without expectation of return favors. Those are tall orders, I know. Tall but attainable. I especially want them to do this for each other, as brothers.
As an adult, I have already figured out that life does not have a fairness meter. If we spend all our time bemoning the lack of perceived "fairness", life will pass us right by.
On a practical level, it's not particularly fair that the more you exercise for your health, the more you have to exercise. If life were fair, exercise would work in reverse. The more you did, the less you would have to do.
If life were fair, drunk drivers would be the ones injured in their car crashes. Most of the time, it's the drunk driver who doesn't get hurt. Why is that?
If life were fair, dedicated soldiers wouldn't get shot by snipers.
If life were fair, babies wouldn't be born with birth defects and painful complications.
While I don't want to be the kind of mother who rips every shred of that innocent world view from my children prematurely, I do think that the earlier they begin to understand that not everything in life feels universally fair, the better equipped they will be to deal with life as mature adults. A week or two ago I heard a snippet of a conversation on tv where the one character said to the other something along the lines of:
"There's a bunch of planets and moons and stars floating around in space. They are all aligned with the one big ball, which is the anchor of the universe. That big ball, the anchor of the universe around which all things rotate...well, it's not you."
I couldn't help but laugh. I think that should go on a t-shirt. :)
I want to teach my children that they are cared for in a way that is most uniquely appropriate for each of them as individuals, by Joal and I, and by the heavenly Father too. God the Creator knows exactly what we need and gives to us accordingly in grace and with great love--not according to what our neighbor of friend or brother has or needs--but exactly and specifically what we need individually, according to his design. How reassuring that is.
Part of learning that life is not fair and that the universal lack of fairness is OK means also accepting that Christians are called to have hearts constantly filled with gratitude. Asking myself "Am I operating from a grateful heart?" is one of the finest ways I know to quickly and succinctly check myself. Is my current action reflective of my heart's gratitude for the presence and wisdom of the Lord in my life? When it's not, the misalignment of my life becomes glaringly obvious. Fast.
~~James 3:17~~ ((The Message))
"Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. "
May it be so today.
"No, you don't get as much macaroni as your brother because he's 7 years older than you, weighs 50 pounds more than you and he needs more to eat than you do. Your needs are met--you are not starving. Stop whining and eat."
"That's because he has taken care of his markers, so he still has the full set that he got at Christmas. Look around and see if you can find the ones you have misplaced."
"It's his turn to go with Daddy to the gas station. You went yesterday, remember?"
Life is not fair.
But God is good.
For that I am grateful.
PS I really like what Jane Johnson Struck had to say about this topic too...