It's becoming a trend that whenever my 3-year-old asks for something and I say no, she follows up with this:
The implication is clear: she's hoping my NO wasn't really a no. Maybe it was just a "Not now." If I say no you can't have a cupcake, no you can't go outside, or no I won't let you play my guitar, she takes a little step back, puts on her cutest little smile and asks, "Later?"
Sometimes the answer to her "later" question is yes. Yes, you can have a cupcake LATER, after dinner. Yes, you can go outside LATER, after your nap. (The guitar question is always a no, though.) But the funny thing about this is that she has no concept of how long "later" is. It could be in five minutes or five hours or five days, but she doesn't comprehend that. She just knows it's coming. And she's perfectly content and happy with that.
So that got me thinking. I, supposedly, am a grown-up who does understand the difference between five minutes, five hours, and five days. I even understand that sometimes "later" turns into "never" when circumstances change or unexpected events occur. So is that why "later" is not a satisfactory answer for me, like it is for my daughter? Is that why hearing "later" (or its fraternal twin "wait" or its cousin "maybe") does not result in my contented happiness?
When I hear "later" or "wait," I tend to get worked up. If I didn't want it now, I wouldn't have asked! Later doesn't do me any good! But earlier today when my daughter once again responded to my "no" with "Later?", I had a light-bulb moment. It was like God was smacking me upside the head.
The Bible tells us to have faith like a little child. To come to God like little children. And guess what? Little children are content and happy when they receive "later" as an answer. So if I'm not content when I receive that answer from God, I am not coming to him like a little child. I'm acting too much like a grown up. Too demanding, too impatient, and too self-focused.
When I had this realization, it really made me think about my recent prayers. At some point every child grows out of believing in "later," and I wondered when I "grew out" of that stage with God. When did I start demanding everything in my timing and believing that "later" is just an infuriating way to put off saying "no"?
I don't know when it happened but I think I want to change. I want to believe that when God says "no," he has a reason for that. Just like I have a reason when I tell my daughter, "No, you can't have a cupcake." It doesn't necessarily mean she's never going to get a cupcake. It just means I happen to know better than she does when the best time to have a cupcake is.
So, maybe God knows better, too.
"Lord, won't you fix this problem for me?"