Spoiled rotten

Amidst all the hurry and scurry and buying and wrapping and baking and planning and parties and noise that is Christmas, there are some things running around in my brain. Maybe it’s because I’m not doing much of these things this year, rather watching it all happen around me. 
As I have already shared in a blog about Christmas, we pare it wayyyy down around here. In fact, the only Christmas presents given this year are one per family member given via Secret Santa. With a small dollar limit, we all have had to get creative and thoughtful to buy for one person in this house. I can hardly wait to see who has who and what everyone came up with.

As a family, we were talking about the perception children have of their family’s financial status. When our kids were little, money was often tight, but we did our very best to never let them know that. In fact, recently one of ours said they thought we were rich because of how many toys were in the toy room! 
The other day, Justin said that once, as a little boy, he had eaten stuffed crust pizza and heard it was more expensive than regular pizza so in order to never ask too much–though it was his favorite–he never asked for it again. We never knew this, and how much he loved it, so we never bought stuffed crust until recently, and now he eats it like he may never have it again. ;o)

I remember feeling guilty as a child because I needed a winter coat. I had heard my mom approach my dad with this need, and I can vividly picture the whole scene as my dad struggled with how to tell my mom he didn’t really have the money for that. As a result, I tried very hard not to need too much.

We also talked the other day as a family about kids we have observed who get anything and everything they want.

Spoiled: to do harm to the character, nature, or attitude of by oversolicitude, overindulgence, or excessive praise.
Rotten: made weak or unsound by rot

Eventually, given all we want, we become rotten, and it has the potential to ruin us.

Have you watched the newest version of Willy Wonka lately? Next time you do, observe the different faces of the spoiled rotten. There is the over-indulged child whose weight reflects his need to stuff his face with all the junk he can fit in, and his mommy loves to watch him eat it all. There is the picture-perfect wealthy girl who demands from her Daddy, “I want it now!”, and he gives it to her. It goes on and on…

“A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.”–Robertson Davies

I’ve been guilty of buying my kids things to try to show them love. Haven’t we all at some point? But, isnt the real trick to balance that desire for them to HAVE with teaching them to appreciate what they’ve been given? 
From an early age, we have taught our three to work for what they have. They all found ways to earn money and they save their money and buy their own cars and pay for their own gas and cell phones. 
Since this is not exactly typical, there have been times where we felt like really mean parents as our kids have had older cars than their friends and tracfones instead of iPhones. It’s really not easy telling your kids, “no,” is it? But, now, I have to say, the pay-off is bigger than I can imagine as I have hard-working, responsible kids who appreciate the things they have earned and know how to save money.
At times, I’m sure our kids felt like we were unfair, but now, they thank us for teaching them that money doesn’t, in fact, grow on trees. I am quite sure that there was never a moment where our kids felt less loved than the other kids because we didn’t hand them everything. They have always known that we just don’t show love that way.

Do we, as parents, equate how much we give our children with how much we love them? Do they judge our love for them by how much they have? 

Is my standard for how loved I am directly related to what I think I deserve from someone? Who, then, determines what the standard is?
If I don’t get the things I want, am I not very loved, after all?

Okay, now flip all this and think about how you and I behave with God.
He gives and gives and gives…ad infinitum…
We take and take and take…ad nauseum…and want more and ask for more and think we deserve more. And the minute things don’t go the way we think they should, we figure we must not be loved that much after all.  Because what kind of God would say “no” to those He says He loves? What kind of Father would teach His children through discipline instead of spoiling them rotten with all the things they are sure are the best for them?
How many of us are the girl demanding from her Daddy, “I want it now!”?
How quickly we make God’s love conditional and return ours to Him based on conditions!

I heard a song the other day. It really got me thinking. Some of those things we are sure we want and that we pray for may not be the best that God has for us. After all, His view of our little lives may just include a bit more perspective. As much as I think I want or need something, it may not be the very best for me. 

What if I’m so busy living for right now that I miss the whole, big picture? 

The truth is, most times I do feel spoiled by my God. He has truly been so good to me. Anything I have that is good has come from His hand. But, now, I rethink the word spoiled. That is not what I want to be. Basking in His grace and washed in His love. Grateful for His favor. Yup, that’s more like it.
And when the metaphorical rain falls, He has a plan for me–much greater than what I can see. His promises are enough for me to hold on to.

Please, take five minutes and listen to this song. As a gift to me, please listen to this song, and tell me what you think.

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5 thoughts on “Spoiled rotten

  1. Alison, I have read a few of your different blogs and I have to say, this one got to me. You and I have a little bit in common with having not-so-great mom’s and what not. But in the grand scheme of life, God has blessed us with people in our lives. I know in mine Amy and ladies from church, even you, have influenced me in a good way at some time in my life. I never thougth about being “spoiled” by God, but a lot of the time I do find myself demanding everything from him. Begging him to “gimme gimme gimme” but a lesson I learned young was “gimme gimme never gets” … meaning, you can’t expect God to give if all you always do is ask for things. Thanks for the uplifting message, its a lot to take in and I appreciate that you took the time to write it! And I listened to the song, and loved it. A good summary of what we all need to remember. 🙂

  2. Alright, I’ll tell you what I think of the song, though I’m not sure it’s the answer you want. I don’t dislike the song in the sense that I appreciate that she’s not endorsing a prosperity gospel, so to speak. She’s saying that life is tough and just because you follow Jesus doesn’t mean it will be easy.But this song was really, really hard to listen to earlier this year. Our daughter was stillborn in March and a few people sent us this song. I couldn’t help but think, “Really?!?” I don’t know why they thought that song would help. Death is never a blessing. Pain and hurt are not blessings. I don’t think it’s right to explain away pain and suffering and death as things we have to go through to grow stronger. I don’t see any way in which my life is better because of losing my daughter or growing up with messed up parents is a blessing. I believe that my family would be better off in a number of ways if we hadn’t had to go through that.The dictionary definition of the word “blessing” is this: “a special favor, mercy, or benefit,” or, “a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.” Death and pain don’t fit into that camp.I realize that blessings can come out of pain. For example, we were blessed by many people who prepared meals, attended our daughter’s memorial service, and supported us in numerous other ways. But the pain was not a blessing.The hardest line of this song for me is this:”And what if trials of this lifeThe rain, the storms, the hardest nightsAre Your mercies in disguise”In other areas of the song she talks about the blessings coming through the raindrops, which I can understand. But I don’t understand saying that the trial itself is a mercy. Mercy delivers us from the trial. The trial, though, is not the mercy.That’s my take on it anyway. Again, it may be that it’s just raw for me because of my experience. On the other hand, I suppose you could argue that my experience gives me a somewhat more meaningful perspective, though I’m sure others with similar experiences bring a very different perspective.In any event, I enjoyed this post!

  3. Julie, Thank you for your comments and heart-felt consideration. It is so easy to fall into the gimme category for sure! I’m so glad this hit your heart. :o)Joey, Wow! Thank you for your honesty. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Here’s why. First of all, in my humble opinion, there is never an adequate consolation for the loss of a child. There is NEVER a way to feel better about that. Frankly, I tend to struggle with well-meaning platitudes sent at low, low life moments. When we haven’t walked in the shoes of another, we can’t have much to offer other than availability. All the verses in the world (sorry if this offends anyone), or well-written songs are sometimes just noise in the face of real grief. After we are done reeling we realize the heart of the folks who sent the “love,” but still…May I just say how very sorry I am for the pain you and your family have endured.I guess what the song meant to me is that those real moments of raw pain in my life have drawn me deep, deep into the arms of Jesus like no fantastic blessing ever could. There was simply no where else to run, and that is priceless. Would I want those moments for anyone else I love? NO way! Would I want to relive them for one minute! Heck, no! Would I trade them for anything? I have to say no. I don’t know why God chose me to walk some of the roads I have traveled. I do, however, know that those roads led me right to His lap, and that is a mercy. How else would I know His love the way I do?To me, it was appropriate to this post since sometimes the journey we are on is our journey to teach us something–to draw us to Him. Much as a parent uses a tough lesson sometimes to develop a child and demonstrate real love rather than just by showing love in external, perhaps more obvious ways.Again, I thank you for your thoughtful post. As always, your words speak to my heart.

  4. I couldn’t resist posting, although Alison puts things in to words more eloquently than I could, I feel its safe to be RAW. I think for us to stuff the pain and anger we feel towards people, circumstances and sometimes GOD is extremely dangerous. Its been almost 4 years since my wife lost her father and this has been the first of those years we can joke about the joy he was as a father and grandpa. It took 3 yrs of healing before any of us could realize who he was to us. I can’t imagine losing a child…Joey…I’m sorry and won’t even attempt to “christian-eze” it with “good tidings”, it SUCKS and isn’t something anyone should have to endure especially alone. I think the Jewish culture has it right with sitting Shiva, show your support by being present, BUT keep your mouth SHUT it isn’t about you or your opinion its about mourning the loss with somebody you love. Scriptures record Jesus as weeping over Lazarus death..HE was ANGERED and wept when he saw Mary and the Jews weeping. Well intentioned people are just that, well-intentioned, but often lack the ability to refrain from the “encouraging-word” and just let the mourner mourn.I heard a song recently that sang about raising one fist to the sky (in frustration), as crazy as it might sound I think God understands. I think God changes us in the moments when we are angry, frustrated, broken and scared. He doesn’t expect us to always paint a smile on it all and go blindly trusting throwing all our cares on HIM without experiencing some pain in the process. Regardless of how we come to HIM, in our anger, frustration, fear or thankfulness..the point is we came to HIM.Sometimes it takes a knock-down drag-out with God and you know what… HE is up for it. I know this from experience and experience has told me…if I don’t turn tail and run from HIM, HE will WIN. I’m not a runner…and when I’m on my back, bleeding out with tears flowing…HE lifts me up, changes my view of who HE is, of who I am and sends me back out to help others train. If you don’t believe me…check out Jacob, he wrestled in fear, anger and frustration and GOD changed his name and who he would forever be known as.Its not a matter of IF we would wrestle GOD…its a matter of WHEN. I admit, I’ve wrestled with HIM more times than I should have but then again…HE taught me every time. The wrestling always starts out as me trying to change HIM or HIS plan for me…kind of funny now that I think about it. I think one of the best scenes in Forrest Gump is when Lieutenant Dan challenges GOD, it wasn’t until he dealt with the truth behind his anger that he was changed.I’ll leave off with this warning. When the time comes to wrestle (WE don’t choose the time, time chooses us) bring everything you have left in you and be prepared to lose it all during!Thanks Alison for the beautiful blog.

  5. The following is a comment (response) from JOEY: I inadvertently deleted the post rather than published it. Why do they put those buttons so close together on my iPad? I apologize, Joey, but I had to copy and paste it here. Thanks Alison. I was talking to my parents the other night and this song (and my thoughts on it) came up. My parents disagreed with me and my dad told me about how Laura Story wrote the song out of her experience with her husband battling cancer. He made a comment about her trying to understand “why God would do this” to them. I told him I don’t believe God is the author of the cancer or the death. He disagreed.That opened my eyes to something that’s significant: how we view God is critical in how that song is interpreted (and how we view many other things, of course). If God is the author of everything, then there will certainly be a much greater battle to understand why bad things happen because we’re going to be looking to each moment as if God is trying to teach us something by “making” us go through the trial.I don’t believe God is the author of these things because I don’t believe he’s the author of sin, and this pain and suffering is the result of sin. My dad looks to examples in the Old Testament where the scriptures refer to God “hardening their hearts” and says that’s evidence that God is the author of the pain. I look to examples like Job’s and contend that while God certainly doesn’t always interfere, by no means did he author the pain and destruction that came upon Job.Perhaps it’s all a matter of semantics. I certainly have seen God’s hand with us through the pain. I believe he is in control. He is sovereign. But I think I agree with Alison’s comparison with a parent and their child. Just because you have the ability to stop bad things from happening to your kids doesn’t mean you do. You don’t always intervene to keep peace and tranquility. I think it may be the same with God. The fact that he has the authority to stop pain and suffering doesn’t mean he does or even should.

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