The Providence Swap Meet and Trial Auction

Ingratitude is an art form for me.

Why do I spend so much time on this blog exhorting all of you to lift your eyes up, to spot the graciousness of God in your trials, to give thanks in all things? Because writing is how I preach to myself, and technology being what it is, I am inviting you to listen in. It means that 9 times out of 10, if I am writing about a topic, it means that I either am currently or have historically struggled with it.

How do you like that extra special glimpse into the rottenness of my soul?

When my Eldest Quail was a wee babby (Little Kidnappers, anyone? It would thrill me to have someone, anyone get this reference and if you have never seen the movie, go do so, and then we can giggle over the newfound quote comradery. Quoteradery, if you will), she was crushed with a metabolic decompensation that took away her ability to hold her head up, and gave her a movement disorder that she still battles today. She also lost the ability to sleep without sedation, for a time, and struggled hard for sleep of any kind for years.

People have assumed that I must wrestle with the grand questions of WHY? Why would God do this to my family? Why is this the thing He called us to? But they would be wrong. My ingratitude ran on more particular, possibly more spiteful lines…

I could stomach that He was taking away life as we knew it, that He was within His rights as my King to give and take away anything. Hadn’t I seen it with my own health? He does no wrong, no injustice has been done me if I writhe in pain til my dying day, and that must hold true for my children and their health as well. I struggled less against the cosmic and more against the grocery stores.

The way mothers behave towards their children in grocery stores kills me. I get it — you are under pressure, a budget to manage, everyone is tired and so forth, but good gravy, there are a lot of snippy grocery shopping mothers out there. I would wear my twitching, hand-wringing infant in a wrap on my chest, trying to prop up her floppy neck, and I would watch perfectly healthy toddlers and elementary age children clamor about their mother, asking for things, loudly telling the same story that she had likely heard 18 times already since unbuckling their car seats in the parking lot, and my heart would burn as I watched the maternal short temper flare, the hands get slapped, the story get ignored. That is where my ingratitude would flare, and at its root, my gripe was one of unequal distribution…

The snippy mother behaves badly. But I do not deny that she is in the middle of a trial, of a real struggle. It is taxing to be constantly touched, constantly interrupted, constantly needed. My downfall was always the underlying conviction that if God had given me her trial, I would do it better. I wrestled with the self-pity — how dare she complain about hearing her child call “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom” over and over again! What I wouldn’t give to hear my child say it once.

This morning, I was observing a group text conversation; a couple of mothers from church graciously include me in the friendly and often edifying chat, for which I am grateful, and they were making reference to something called a Providence Market (there were very cute cookies involved, which caught my attention). Now, it turns out, it is a craft fair of sorts at a private Christian school called Providence, designed to teach the kids economics or some such. But my initial thought was more of an internal snort as I imagined how many of us would eagerly attend a Hard Providences Market, a swap meet of trials and hardships. I’ll take your kid’s whining, you can have our choreiform movements, and just because it is the holidays, I’ll throw in a side of obsessive compulsive disorder and gut complications — all sales final, no exchanges or refunds. No takesie backsies.

That final clause would be key, because the reality is, as soon as we sealed the deal, we would discover that actually, the trial we brought to the table to start with was better suited to us, to our needs and our strengths and weaknesses, than anything we could score in a barter. That is why our ingratitude is chock full of sick irony; my sidelong glances at the affliction God has given my neighbor is like standing tall in perfectly fitted orange leather driving moccasins and envying the the sparkly plastic Mary Janes of the 3-year-old sitting on your lap, and thinking they would fit you way better than the shoes you are already wearing.

So. Let’s give up the silliness of our stingy, self-righteousness moping. You and I have exactly what we need today. Not only are our trials handcrafted for us by the loving hand of our Father, He gives us Himself, while He constantly intercedes for us and strengthens us in the inner man. His grace is sufficient for the affliction He has designed for us. As John Calvin so aptly put: He fights against us with His left hand, and for us with His right.

In this season of waiting, can you step out in faith and wait on the Lord to bring your suffering to its conclusion when it is actually best for you to have it end, or to prolong it and give you the strength to bear up under it, that His name would be glorified in you and that you would be formed into the image of Christ?

Can you thank Him either way?

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