There’s been a lot of talk in our house lately about good guys and bad guys. “What happens to the bad guys?” “Why are they bad?” These are the questions that keep my 3-year-old boy up at night. It all started when he saw his cousin perform in a kid’s production of Annie. He still asks me, almost a year later, why Mrs. Hannigan was so mean! Now the conversation is more focused on Darth Vader and the “dark side.” He has yet to see Star Wars, but our kind next door neighbor keeps providing him with an endless supply of storm troopers and yoda figurines which have now becoming friends with his Playmobil Noah’s Ark set.
As we’re driving around town running errands, I’ll hear his sweet voice and questions from the backseat. “Why is Darth Vader so mean?” “Does he need to go to jail?” I’ll typically say things like, “Well, Darth Vader made some bad choices, one bad choice after another.” Or, “Darth Vader was tricked to turn to the dark side.” Or to keep it simple, “Darth Vader just needs some friends.” To be honest, I’m not sure what would be the most age appropriate answer for my little guy who is trying to figure the world out with an endless supply of “whys.”
When he makes some bad choices of his own like, let’s say, slapping me in the face or pulling his friend’s hair in a WWE hold while banging his head up and down on a trampoline, we again have a conversation about bad choices while he has a time out. I’ve been sitting with him during these time outs and try as best as I can to speak in a calm voice while keeping him in place and helping him transition out of his bonkers state of emotions.
His slapping and thrashing episodes usually happen once I say “no” to him. Just last night when I told him it was time for bed and no, he couldn’t go on the swing in the dark in our back yard, he told me, “Don’t say ‘no’ to me. It’s not nice. You’re going to get a super big time out and then you’ll have to go to jail.” Trying not to laugh, I accepted his words and said that Mommy would take a time out once he was in bed (and I’d prop my feet up on the couch with a handful of chocolate covered almonds and some wine).
The other day he asked, “Why do you always say ‘no’ to me?” This deflated me. I told him, “I don’t like saying ‘no’ to you sweetie. But sometimes I need to say ‘no’ because I know what’s best for you.” This conversation reminded me of some hard lessons I’ve learned, and continue to learn, when it feels like God is saying ‘no’ to me as well. After each heart breaking end of a relationship in my single days, I felt like God kept saying ‘no’ over and over and over again. Some wise person spoke some truth to me during that time and altered that meaning a bit by offering that perhaps God wasn’t saying “No” but “Not yet.” Those four extra letters felt like a peace offering from God. God hadn’t forgotten me and my desire to be married. God hadn’t abandoned me. And perhaps, God didn’t even like saying “No” to me. But God did say “Not yet. Oh, not yet Marlene. I have someone even better. Just wait and hold onto me a bit longer. Trust me on this.”
I’d like to think that is what God is saying to me now as I feel like I’m wading through another “No” season of life, a season where things aren’t happening as I thought they should. “Not yet, Marlene. Not yet.” And for my son I do try to find many times to say “Yes” to him throughout the day to buffer the “Nos” and the “Not yets.”