I heard the child’s voice before I could see the child’s face.
“Daddy, I don’t want to wait. Please, please, please?”
It was obvious that this wasn’t the beginning of the conversation, nor the first time the request had been made. The voice was full of sweet pleading.
Their faces came into view and I saw the small one’s eyes were large and longing. The man’s face kindly imitating the child’s- his brows furrowed and his mouth in an empathetic frown.
“I know, my love, but I need you to wait.”
“But Daddy, I don’t want to wait.” The small face with the big, pink cheeks was both adorable and sad. The bottom lip protruded in a pout and began to quiver. “I can’t wait, Dad, I just can’t wait anymore.” Crocodile tears filled the little one’s eyes, spilled out and ran down the plump cheeks, dripped off the wrinkled little chin, and plopped on the ground. I felt my heart break. “I can’t. I want it.” The child burst into loud sobs and, just like the tears, fell into a puddle on the ground.
“I know it’s hard, but come with me,” the Father said patiently and encouragingly, his head tilted to the side to meet the gaze of his broken-hearted child.
The sobs stopped and there was a moment of silence, maybe a moment for contemplation.
I felt an instantaneous change in the eyes that had been so full of sweet longing; they were suddenly small and angry.
He saw it, too. The man knelt down and extended a hand; the child swatted it away. I knew the melting point was being reached.
“Leave me alone! You know what I want and you won’t give it to me.” The tone was sharp and bratty, the words accusingly being spat at the man.
He took his cue and a deep breath and stood up, his face still surprisingly unchanging. I could tell this wasn’t the father’s first rodeo.
“You won’t, you won’t!” Another outburst of sobs overtook the small body, and a moan that sounded strangely similar to that of a demon escaped from deep inside. “It’s not fair! It’s not fair! You know I’ve been waiting. It’s not fair!” Fists and feet pounded on the floor. This wasn’t just a meltdown, this had turned into a full-fledge tantrum. I wondered if anyone else was watching.
I studied the man for his reaction; I wanted to know if this wild display of unchecked emotions was getting to him. Part of me waited for him to yell back, and all of me wondered if the child would get what was being asked for. But he remained calm and collected, seemingly not sucked in. He nodded, the nod somehow full of wisdom and love.
The voice peeked at an all-out scream “Why? Why? It’s not fair! You don’t love me!”
The man was saying something, but I was too caught up in emotion and couldn’t hear his words over the wailing.
And then, with lungs at what must have been maximum capacity, “DON’T YOU HEAR ME?!” Each word articulated more sharply than the last.
“Yes, my love, I hear you.”
The next came in a mimicky, grown-up voice dripping with condescension “But are you LI-STEN-ING?”
The little one stared at the Father without a single muscle moving, daring him to answer. I knew the child’s whole world hung on what he would say next.
Gently and unruffled he responded. “Yes, my darling, I’m listening.”
Almost magically, his words caused the storm to subside; the anger waned but the deep sadness returned, tangible in the air around us. “You promised. You said you would. It’s not fair. You promised.”
Once again he knelt beside his child.
I heard him say “Yes, I promised, and I keep my promises.”
Another small sob and a big sniffle and a last plea “But I want it now.”
“I know you do. Come with me, let me show you what I have for you.”
“Will you give me what I want?” the child asked cautiously.
“If you trust me and walk with me, I’ll give you more than you could ever ask for.” Again, he extended his strong right hand.
I wiped the tears from my cheeks and felt myself take a deep, calming breath.
In my mind’s eye, I watched the small child place my small hand in his. Warmth and peace spread through my body.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, having finally composed myself. “Do you think I’ll ever mature out of those tantrums?”
“My child, never stop crying out to me.” I felt his smile and returned it to him. We were walking together once again.
But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6