I think whoever said that babies love cars didn’t have a baby. Babies hate the car! At least my little babies do. My 10-week-old, Phoebe, just screams her heart out in the car and nothing much will soothe her other than reaching our destination and saving her from her personal hell. It’s so heartbreaking. I try to cross my i’s and dot my t’s before we get in the car, because it will be much worse if I’ve forgotten to nurse or change her, but the tears still come fairly often regardless. She’s ten weeks old — she doesn’t understand what’s happening, she has no concept of time or distance, and she just wants to be in her mama’s arms. Yes, for many babies (and their parents) the car is a horrible place.
The other day I was driving to Starbucks to meet my friends for Bible study. I had Phoebe with me, as I almost always do, and sure enough she cried the whole way there. It’s only a ten minute drive, but ten minutes of baby hysterics is piercing and painful. Sometimes highway driving is the one version of car-time that Phoebe tolerates, because the constant speed will lull her to sleep, but when she’s completely frantic highway driving is the worst because there is just not much I can do to comfort her. (I’m pretty good at the blind pacifier sweep-and-pop but I feel safer doing it at red lights than at 70mph. And seriously, it’s like they try to sit on it to make it impossible to find!). This particular drive is almost all highway driving and my poor daughter was just wailing. “We’re almost there, sweetheart.” “I’m so sorry you’re sad.” “I’m right here with you.” “I love you sweet girl.” We were 180 seconds from relief but she had no way of knowing that.
Suddenly I saw myself as the crying baby and God as the driver. And the highway as my life’s journey. And that particular stretch of road as a current painful chapter of life. I do wail; I wail a lot. I tell God, “This hurts! I hate this! (I hate you!) I don’t know where we’re going or why or when our exit is! I want to get out of here!!!”
“We’re almost there, sweetheart.” “I’m so sorry you’re sad.” “I’m right here with you.” “I love you sweet girl.”
I imagine that God’s eyes well with tears for my pain just as my eyes do for Phoebe’s. I think about how very little perspective or understanding Phoebe has compared to me and I realize it’s the same with me and God. It does hurt to be in a season of painful unknowing. I don’t know where God is taking me or if the road curves up ahead. I’m in the backseat (rear-facing even!) and I can’t see what God sees. I don’t know about the rush-hour traffic or the construction or the accident. I can’t appreciate that not pulling over on a busy highway when I’m crying is in itself an act of love because it is protecting me from danger.
“ If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” — Matthew 7:11, paraphrased
I love my children so much it hurts. I don’t have words to express adequately the depth of my love for Gabe and Phoebe. But I when I read that verse from Matthew it helps me grasp the mysterious triune God a little better. If I would do anything for my kids, and want their good more than anything else in the world, and Scripture tells me that God’s love for me is even BIGGER than that…then perhaps there’s a benevolent purpose at work that I cannot understand. Maybe God is “letting me cry” for a reason I cannot currently grasp. Could it be that God thinks like I do and knows that making time and just getting there is the fastest way to bring me comfort? Can it be simultaneously true that (1) I don’t like what God is doing and (2) He loves me with an unfathomable love?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” — Proverbs 3:5
I might hate the way that God works sometimes, or appears to be working. Much like a 10-week-old baby, I despise being strapped into a car seat and flying backwards down the highway. My newborn is still learning my reliability, that I will truly hear her when she cries and I will surely attend to her needs. Every time I come through for her she learns that I am trustworthy. If I’m being honest I’m still learning this myself about God, despite knowing it intellectually. He does not forget the cry of the afflicted, He does not forget the cry of the afflicted, He does not forget the cry of the afflicted…Psalm 9:12 echos in my heart and I remind myself of it’s truth. He knows I hate the car seat. He cares I hate the car seat. But a five-point harness is necessary to keep me safe. It’s essential to get me from Point A to Point B without harm. And God isn’t going to let me ride unbuckled just because I want to — love doesn’t endanger the beloved.
I don’t know why God works slowly as we understand slowness. But I do know how much I love my daughter and how much her crying breaks my heart, even when my love for her means I don’t pull over on the highway. And my reading of God’s Word tells me that He loves me even more than I love Phoebe. I’m a good parent, and God is a better parent. And so I can only conclude this: God is driving as fast as is kind, and as slow as is safe. The exit for Starbucks could be right around the corner.
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” — Habakkuk 2:3
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” — 2 Peter 3:8