Child psychologists tell us that one of the necessary steps in what is called “individuation” (the realization that I am a unique person amongst the rest of humanity), is the experience of someone saying “no” to my desires. Suddenly, there is that strange world out there that IS NOT ME! It just said “no” to me. Imagine?!
It works the other way too. A child separates himself from the parent and demonstrates their own personhood. “Time for bed.”; “NO!” It can be a trying time for child and parents. But, we all have to go through it.
We call it the “terrible two’s”. Up to now the child has been something of royalty. Their every need (as best one can) is seen to by loving, anxious parents. Food on demand, warmth, bathroom, holding, touching, cooing are showered on the child. A little king or queen they are.
Then comes the day they hear and understand the opposing wishes of someone else, and life becomes a contest of wills. A parent’s pain comes when their wise and loving “no” is perceived as abandonment or harshness by the child.
But here is where adults have the advantage. We see the big picture. We know the consequences of too much candy, too late to bed, too much rough play (“this will end in tears”, mom says.)
With our big picture, we also know the “no” of a child is terribly temporary and does not represent the child at his or her best. Constant kindness, gentle firmness, will win the day. Why? Because the child so desperately needs your love. They come back to your arms if they see the love in your eyes and hear the tenderness in your voice.
We hear a “No” from a boy to his parent in the gospel this Sunday. Jesus compares God to a parent who asks his son to go work in the father’s vineyard. “I don’t want to”, he says. But later the boy changed his mind and went (Unlike his brother, who played his parents with a “yes”, but didn’t go).
What does this tell us about ourselves? Several things. We are free. We can say “I will not” to God, and God will allow it. We can change our minds and our way of behavior and be welcomed back like we’d never been gone. We can say “yes” to God, but have it mean nothing if we don’t do it.
What does it tell us about God? I think it says God sees the big picture. God doesn’t freak out about our disobedience. Our first reactions to things are not too important to him. God sees our “yes” or “no” in its fullest context. He knows WHY we choose as we do. (Sometimes even we don’t know why we act as we do!). God is willing to wait, to invite again, to take another approach to us, to never let our “no” be the end of the conversation with him.
Of course, in the end we are responsible for our yes’s and no’s. We must own the consequences of our choices. BUT . . . there is no refusal to God by word or deed that cannot be reversed. No matter how late in life! Remember last Sunday’s gospel? Those called to the vineyard in the last hour of daylight received a full day’s pay.
Lastly, what does this say about how we should react when our children seem to say “no” to God when they say “no” to church? Send me your thoughts here.(email@example.com). (Perhaps I can put the really helpful comments here in another column — don’t worry, no names!).
Oh, For the Love of Webster
Loren and Mark, International Guitar Duo and Jon Seiger & the All Star 5 piece – Big Band Sound Proceeds from the concert with benefit a number of local organizations, including the HOPE Ministry.