This afternoon, I gave my son's math assignment back to him with five problems for him to correct. He got upset, complained about how hard they were, and said he just didn't want to do it. There were tears. There was complaining. We have had multiple conversations about the importance of doing the work so he'll learn the concepts and be ready for later concepts. We've talked about doing his best every time. We have talked about the choices that he has available to him. We have talked. At times, one or both of us have cried.
Now, this is not was usually happens, but today, I gave him the choice. I told him he could choose whether he made the math corrections or not. He said he wanted to learn it, but he didn't want to do the math problems. He said he'd do some different math problems tomorrow. (Of course he will - he has math four days a week and today was Day 2.) We talked again about how learning is supposed to be challenging (that's how you learn!) and that it takes work.
If you want to eat an apple, you have to chew it.
In order to get the benefit, you have to put in some work. The apple won't give you nourishment unless you chew it up. The math won't benefit my son unless he puts forth the effort to work the problems, to memorize his math facts, to think critically before asking for help or just getting angry and shutting down.
I was thinking about how God interacts with us during this exchange today.
God tells us the way to go and the things on which we need to work.
But what do we do with that? I know it depends on many factors each unique time, but I think it seriously deserves our introspection. How many times do we complain, tell Him it's too hard, or say that we just don't want to put in the work? We tell Him that we'll do it later, when we feel like it or when we think it fits into our schedule better.
When my son refused to do his math, he thought I was mad at him. I wasn't mad - but I was disappointed in the choice he made. I decided to let him make it anyway. Why? Because that's what God does. He loves us enough to let us make up our own minds sometimes. He loves us enough not to force us, because forced love is never authentic. It hurt knowing that my son made a choice that could hurt him later. (This was minor, but if it became repetitive, it could have a life-changing impact. Okay, I know that might be a tad over-dramatic, but still...) If my son refuses to learn something, it will be his future he will hurt, not mine. I believe God loves us so much that, similar to how I felt with my son, He is saddened by some of our choices because He knows the outcome. He knows all the blessings and opportunities that we pass up every time we choose not to listen to Him. We don't realize all we're missing when we choose not to follow God. We aren't hurting His plans or future. We are hurting our own opportunities to grow and be involved in the wonderful things He's doing. We are hurting ourselves in the present and the future.
God doesn't like to see His children hurting themselves.
So, how do we respond when (if) we realize that we have saddened God with the choices we have made? Well, I can tell you that my son did not go do his math problems. He did put in more effort on a couple other assignments that he had, and gave me extra hugs. How often are we like that? How often do we try to cover up our bad choices by proving that we are doing well in other areas? "I may sin in this one small area - but look at all these other great things I'm doing!" Or what about trying to make it up to Him? "I'll give a little extra in my tithe this week." "I promise that I'll read my Bible tonight." "I'll put on some Christian music during my drive home today."
What do you think God's response is when we disappoint Him? Does He go pout, refusing to talk to us? Does He leave us on our own to flop around like a fish on the shore until we finally repent? There are times when we feel far from God because of our sin. Yes, there are times when the consequences of our sins are painful and we feel like a flopping fish gasping for breath, but it's not like you might think.
God is still here. Even when we disappoint Him, He doesn't leave us.
It's not God who steps away from the relationship; it's us.
When my son needed help with his English assignment, I didn't make him figure it out on his own. I went over to him, bent over close beside him, and we worked on nouns, plurals, capitalization, and commas. I did not leave him to struggle on his own. I love him. Just like God loves us. He cares too much about us to leave us alone, without hope.
He cares too much about you.
So, what is going to be your choice? When you feel the prompting of God, will you choose to follow Him? When you realize you haven't followed God, will you repent, turning back to Him, or will you try to make up for it in other ways? God doesn't want your acts. He doesn't want empty words and promises. He wants your heart. He wants your love. He wants to show you His love. He wants the best for you.
It will require some chewing, but those apples sure taste good when we put in the effort to eat them. He has so many blessings and opportunities just waiting for us!
I don't know about you, but I will definitely be striving to make some better choices. There's also one certain young man who will be doing all his work - including any needed corrections - tomorrow.