We were leaving the grocery store and I was that woman with the three small children draping themselves over the sides of the carriage, arms flailing, heads tilting back, wild cries belting up to the heartless, cloudy skies.
Pulling up to the van to unload my small bundle of purchases, my three year old wiped his running nose with the back of his fist before beating his chest and glaring at his sister. MY receipt!
Of all the unforgivable offenses, his five year old sister was holding the receipt. Oh, everything made perfect sense now – what, with ownership of that glorious strip of register tape with the magical markings: Hannford. $2.99. PLU 4011, hanging in the balance.
All of the drama, the yelling, the life-can-not-be-THIS-unfair hutzpah he had been putting on display for the entirety of the grocery store parking lot, was all over paper.
All the fuss for a piece of trash.
Asher, I said, trying to calm him, you know, it’s not something worth fussing over. He blinked at me, quiet and thoughtful, but not looking convinced.
He did not wait for me to unbuckle him before whining again, but it’s mine and I want it.
Needless to say, the receipt did not leave with us. It found its way to the nearest trash can and, as I knew it would be, it was forgotten before we even drove out of the parking lot.
Still, the vision of Asher’s chubby face twisted in such frustrated indignation stuck with me. The anger in his throaty hollers, his inability to comprehend the very basic truth I was telling him – in the grand scheme of our lives, this is not important. This is not even worth a moment of consideration. (Or, as I said it in three year old terms: It’s garbage, Sweetheart, and it’s going bye-byes.)
Because, you see, every so often I look into the great furrowed-browed eyes of my children and I get the most clear and annoying glimpse…of myself.
And I know that in the great big parking lot of life, I’m right there with my hands tucked tightly across my chest and my face scowling, holding so tightly onto every, worthless, thing: disappointment, fear, embarrassment, failure, anger, pride, a whole lifetime of foolishness, really.
Why? Oh, well, because it’s mine.
Actually, it’s trash.
But, it’s a part of me.
No, it’s garbage, Sweetheart.
But, it made me who I am.
I made you who you are.
(You can see why my argument stalls here a little.)
You are not the things that have hurt you. You are not the experiences that have disappointed you. You are not what you fear, and you are not what you pride. You are not defined by who you are. You are defined by Who I Am.
And the truths just won’t stop. If I listen long enough, I can recite them to myself:
If I have success, I am in Christ. If I have failures, I am in Christ.
I can’t define myself by myself anymore than a desert can tally its own grains of sand or a painting itself can tell you what the artist intended.
I am never seeing the whole picture, the beginning with the end, the beauty in the process, the eloquence in the details.
I’m, well, in it.
So then, what’s with all the the stuff in my arms: the self-doubt, the nitpicking and disappointment, the whispers of past mistakes, the fear for future ones, the hurt, the worry, the anxiety…
It’s garbage, Sweetheart, and it’s going bye-byes.
Here’s to life lessons from little people who still occasionally wet their pants – and even better yet, here’s to letting go.