The Pains That Shape Us

My son looked at me with desperation in his eyes.

“I want someone to go with me.”

I told him no.

Slowly, his look of desperation changed to one of determination.

Minutes before this short conversation, while I was buying gas, my son asked me if we could go by Little Caesar’s for pizza.  I told him the same thing that every American dad says when his child asks him for pizza.

“We’ll see.”

We’ll see is another way of saying no without really saying no.  If it works properly, the child will forget his initial request while we’re busy seeing.

My son never forgets.

But this time I didn’t let it get to that.  I made up my mind that a little pizza for lunch wouldn’t hurt my boys.  When I pulled into the parking lot they asked me if I was lost.  Clearly, they took my we’ll see response to mean no.  I told them that we were having pizza for lunch.  They were ecstatic. But for my oldest, the joy wouldn’t last very long.

I gave him six dollars and told him to go in by himself and ask for the five dollar cheese pizza.  He had a look on his face like we were in Vietnam and I just asked him to go out on his own to find Charlie.

He finally got out and went to the door.  Seconds later, he came back.

“Dad.  They’re closed.”

“Try pulling on the door instead of pushing.”

He gets that from me.  We both attended Midvale School for the Gifted.

He went back and struggled to open the door just enough for his small frame to squeeze through, his fingers barely making it in before the door slammed shut.  He disappeared.

When he reappeared, there was no pizza.

And no six dollars.

“Dad.  They need 35 cents.”

Sales tax.

I grabbed some change and wrapped his tiny fingers around it.  He struggled through the door again and disappeared.  When I saw him again he had a big smile on his face and a medium pizza in his arms.

I told him that I was proud of him for being brave.  His smile got bigger.  And even bigger when he got home and sat in the floor with his brother to eat pizza.

At first, my son thought that I was being cruel.  He was scared to do something that he had never done before.  But when it was all over, he saw that my intentions were pure.  He saw that the fear of doing something alone, the weight of a heavy door and the confusion of counting money were all coming together for a greater purpose.  They were shaping him.  From a boy to a man.

Christians can count on hardships (John 16:33).  But they can also be assured that they do  not face those hardships alone.  Our Heavenly Father does not sit back, watching and hoping for our best, as we endure difficult situations.  In the person of Jesus Christ, he is with us (Romans 8:31-39).  Always (Matthew 28:20).

And we can also know that our hardships are not an end in themselves.  God, as only he knows and as he sees fit, is glorified through them.  That by itself may seem cruel.  God glorified by my pain?  But it doesn’t stop there.  God, as only he knows and as he sees fit, is using that pain for our ultimate good.

There will be times when the door won’t open and there’s no extra change.  Times when the fear seems overwhelming.  But through it all, there is a Father who is not just watching but who is with us, working for our ultimate good.

And when our job is complete he will still be there, ready to welcome us into his home.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”  (Matthew 25:23 (ESV)