The long awaited day had finally arrived: Bumble Bee’s 4th birthday.
The night before, Boo of life and I had spent some time decorating the living room with balloons, buntings and honeycomb decorations as a surprise for him the next morning. So much for being born in winter; so far, Bumble Bee has had less fancy birthday celebrations, unlike his sister who was born bang in the summer – yes, barbecue season!
“Good morning, mummy” they both chorused as they rushed into my room. “Happy birthday, Bumble Bee”, his sister said, as if to remind me that the reason they were up early and excited was because it was her brother’s birthday.
“Let’s go downstairs!” sister beckoned. She was expecting it, and if I must confess, our decision to decorate was mostly because of her. She would make him feel like he was losing out on something if there were no decorations, even though I know he’d care less.
They both ran downstairs shouting their oohs and aahs as they got to the living room: the bosses were impressed. One point to Home Team. But that was only a bonus point for me; I had the big guns hidden and the time had come to release them.
“Bath time, guys!”
The morning routine would go as normal, with a little twist: Brush. Shower. Dress up . . . Twist!
The kids love PJ Masks and have assigned each character to themselves and one of their friends. Bumble Bee is Gekko.
Because he loves Gekko, and because I knew he was due for new underwear, I decided (as a smart mum, or so I thought) to use one stone to kill both birds: Birthday present: PJ Masks Underpants; besides, he already got a Gekko toy for Christmas.
“Bumble Bee, do you want to see what’s wrapped in here?”
I gave him the parcel and he ripped apart the wrapping sheet to reveal my big guns. Soon enough, he was holding the pack of PJ Masks underpants. I was looking at his face to catch his reaction.
“Do you want me to open it for you?”
I took it from him and opened the packet. One after the other, I brought them out so he could see; there was even one that had Gekko’s face on the entire thing. He grabbed it from me and spread it out to have a closer look and that was when I got his reaction: he looked at his new underpants with great disappointment.
“Ah, mummy, why do I have a Gekko pant? I wanted a Gekko shirt!”
He started crying.
So much for my big guns!
I wasn’t just sad, I felt deflated. I was upset. I was disappointed. In my Nigerian lingo, it pained me very well.
His sister looked at him in disbelief.
“You’re supposed to say thank you” she cautioned.
“No! I wanted a Gekko shirt. I’m never going to wear this pant ever again”
That was when his dad heard him. The sermon he received left him in stitches and he came back to me with a frown on his face and said thank you.
Not to pass on a teachable moment, I told him exactly how I felt and what I expected of him. He nodded in response, but for the next hour, he’d come back and ask me why he didn’t get a Gekko shirt for his birthday. Then I realised that his childish mind was yet to grasp the idea of contentment . . .
. . . and neither had mine!
As I was brooding over my feelings, I thought about all the times I had looked at the things that God had given me and wanted something else instead. I thought about all the times Boo of life had gotten me a gift, and because it wasn’t what I was expecting, I’d wear a fake smile on my face to hide my disappointment, most times doing a poor job at it. I thought about the few people I feel have rejected me and how hurt I’d be, instead of considering the many that God uses daily to love me selflessly. In so many ways, I have exhibited the same level of discontentment that my son displayed, the only difference is that with him, there is no pretence.
How must God have felt on the days when I looked at His gifts to me with contempt? I know how I felt when I heard my son express his disappointment. My heart was torn in bits. I know how I have felt when I’ve gone out of my way to do something for someone and their response lacks thankfulness; it’s always hard to do anything else for such a person. And I know God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mine, but I can’t help thinking about how Jesus made the comparison between earthly fathers not giving their children stone in the place of bread, and our Heavenly Father’s response to us. God must feel even more pain in His heart; the things He gives us that we complain about are more important than underpants.
“Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” Romans 1:21
The sense of entitlement that plagues our hearts and the pride that wraps us up feeling like some things are beneath us: the reasons for our unthankful hearts. A number of us boast about being hard to please like it’s a medal to be worn on our shoulders showing off our high ranks. Then I think of Jesus putting on the form of what He created to save His creation. I think of Jesus’s prayers of thanksgiving to the Father every time He broke bread. I think about Jesus thanking the Father for hearing Him when He prays . . . my goodness, we have a lot to learn . . . and become.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” II Timothy 3:1-5
It’s easy to look at the glaring sins of our neighbours and judge them as unrighteous, but the word of God makes it clear that even from the UNTHANKFUL we should turn away.
Bumble Bee’s response to me opened my heart to the areas that I also need to work on, and I pray that as he grows up, he will see through my example how to live a life of gratitude and contentment.
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 1 Timothy 6:6