On the way to my daughter Miriam’s nursery there is a bakery which sells, amongst other things, gingerbread men. There are small gingerbread men for 40p, and large gingerbread men (or even butterflies) for £1.
One day, probably about a year ago now, I bought my two children a small gingerbread man each. What a treat. They’d been past that bakery a hundred times and had never asked me to buy them anything. I love giving the children a little treat – a surprise that they really appreciate.
Since then, I’ve bought the children gingerbread men/butterflies several times from the same bakery. Recently when Miriam had her pre-school booster jabs I let her choose whichever one she wanted as a special treat to cheer her up.
A few weeks ago, when I picked Miriam up from nursery I told her we could go and get a small (40p) gingerbread man. I went in and bought her and my son, Ezra, a small one each. Miriam, however, wanted a big gingerbread man. She then proceeded to have a screamy, shouty tantrum outside the bakery in the busy street. I was so embarrassed. She seemed extremely spoilt, shouting ‘I want a big gingerbread man’ at the top of her voice. And as well as feeling embarrassed about it, I felt really sad. A year ago, she was thrilled to get a small gingerbread man, but now she despised it – it wasn’t good enough.
This incident taught me a few things I’d like to share with you.
Firstly, I am just like Miriam. God gives me good things (material or otherwise) – wonderful treats which I am thankful for. But then I get used to them, and I want the ‘next’ thing, I want the nicer/the longer-lasting/the more expensive. The bigger gingerbread man. I set my heart on something, and then after God graciously and generously gives me that thing, I realise it doesn’t satisfy and I move on to something else. This discontentment is caused by idolatry in my heart. I think that something other than God will satisfy my soul. And I even think that for my children. I know it’s good to take pleasure in helping my children to enjoy something, but if I think that something is going to satisfy them, then I’m leaving God out of the picture. I’m teaching them, through my actions and attitude, that satisfaction can be found in something other than God. This realisation has made me very uncomfortable! Oh how I need God’s grace.
So, as well as crying out to God for mercy, what shall I do about it?
Give thanks to God for all of the gifts he kindly gives me each day. At the same time, remember that the greatest gift God could give me is his Son, Jesus Christ. He more than satisfies my deepest needs and desires. I suppose part of this is expecting other things not to satisfy. Know in advance that, although I’d really like that ultra-slim Dyson, it won’t actually change my life if I end up buying it! Only God can give me lasting joy. My children need to see me finding my satisfaction in the Lord.
And when I “treat” my children, I should remember that their pleasure won’t last and they will soon be asking for something else. And it’s my job to point them to the source of all treats, and the real treat himself – Jesus Christ.
“I have seen you in the sanctuary
And beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
My lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
And in your name I will lift up my hand.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.”