We were standing in line at the check out, waiting for our turn, when the usual scenario began to play out. I was mentally tallying up the cost of milk and eggs, trying to decide if I should wait to buy batteries next month, and desperately trying to remember what I just knew I had forgotten from my list…when my children began to appeal for a treat. I absent-mindedly answered them, reminding them that Christmas was right around the corner and their stockings would soon be filled with more goodies and toys than they could ever need. Until then, it would be good for them to wait. Unaware that anyone was listening in, I was startled when the lady in front of us offered to buy the children each a candy of their choice—“just as a Merry Christmas” she said.
Somewhat shocked, I immediately went into “mom-mode” giving my children what they have lovingly termed “the eyes”—my non-verbal attempt to say “Come on, don’t embarrass me here. Pick the smallest, most inexpensive thing you can find, and then thank her PROFUSELY.” My three oldest knew immediately what my glare meant and proceeded accordingly, but my youngest was lost in all of his new found options. Like a wave rising as it nears the shore, I saw the greed rising in the eyes of my son…he didn’t want the small candy, he wanted the BIG one. In my mind the thoughts began marching like soldiers into battle—“I know what you’re thinking, and I will deal with you in the van. Just PLEASE don’t say anything…take the candy…keep your mouth shut…smile at the nice lady…” All of my silent pleas went completely unnoticed and out came the words that I dreaded most. “I don’t want THAT. Why can’t I have THIS?”
Mount Vesuvius had nothing on me as I walked my young son out of the store and to the van. I was angry. All the while playing over the words of the grand speech I was about to make. “How could you be so ungrateful? That nice lady, out of the kindness of her heart, offered to buy you candy that you don’t need and certainly don’t deserve—why would you act that way?!”
And then, like a ton of bricks, it hit me…he acts that way, because I act that way. Ungratefulness isn’t something found only in my children…it’s in all of us. How often have I been in my own “candy line” in life, greedily staring at all the things I think I should have? How many times have I exhibited ingratitude on the cosmic level, as I stare up at my Creator and say, “I don’t want THAT. I want THIS.”
Lowell A. Ivey said, “Words are like little windows into the heart. Often enough, when I hear the words of my children, I find myself reflecting on my own attitudes toward God. What do my selfishness and my ingratitude look like to the One who gave His only begotten Son as a ransom for my sin?”
My son’s attitude that day grieved my heart because I know all that he has been given—and he was making the choice at that moment to see only what he didn’t have. But, if I am truly honest, I do the same in some way everyday. I choose not to see the immeasurable gifts that my Lord has graciously given—the life of His Son, the presence of His Spirit, the truth of His Word. And what’s more, He gives me these gifts—and countless more—though I have never deserved them.
Over Christmas my prayer has been that God would change my own heart…and my children’s…that we will each have eyes to see all that God has done for us. And because of that, we will hold our earthly treasures with open hands and thankful hearts.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:3