It was bedtime, about forty-eight hours into quarantine when my husband asked, “So, what’s the plan for tomorrow?” I laughed so I wouldn’t cry. What an interesting question to ask in the midst of this bizarre, sad, profound situation.
“This is it, brother. Settle in. We are living Groundhog Day.”
Later I thought, “Right! Groundhog Day, I wonder if I can find that old movie anywhere?” Turns out, yes. Thank you, Netflix.
Groundhog Day is the tale of Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a self-important weatherman who is less than thrilled to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, PA. After half-heartedly performing his job, he tries to get out of town quickly only to be stopped by a massive blizzard. Forced to spend the night, he wakes the next morning to discover he is living the previous day over again. And again. And again.
While intended as satire, Phil’s life “on repeat” offers us lessons during COVID-19. And, as art imitates life, the themes from his journey can help to validate and comfort us as we go through these very strange, repetitive days.
Denial: Phil spends the majority of the first day seeking information. He asks people what day it is. He refuses to believe the facts. The reality is too overwhelming to accept so he looks for other options. Please hear me on this. If you were someone who did not understand how serious this situation was and now you feel bad about it? Let. That. Go. We do the best we can with what we have and sometimes, our defense mechanisms kick in to try to keep us psychologically safe. When we know better we do better, and we can do better now.
Connection: Phil eventually realizes that he is, in fact, repeating the same day. Not wanting to be alone in his experience, he starts trying to collect sympathizers and make a plan. This is us, people. When we launched into this strange reality several weeks ago, we reached out. We made Facebook groups and passed along memes that validated our emotions. We learned how to use Zoom and Google Meet. We collaborated and created plans. We made our best efforts to manage this sudden new life and we did it together.
Withdrawal: After a little while, Phil gets distant. He stops communicating with his news team, not telling them where he is or what he is doing. There may be times when you need to disconnect from the news, social media feeds, even the people around you. Take comfort, this is a very normal way our bodies sometimes try to shore up resources that are depleted during stress. Just remember that extended isolation isn’t good for you. So, please, take some time but then, find ways to reengage with healthy support.
Anger: Eventually, Phil loses it. After a few days of stress, failed plans and people not understanding him, he gets mad. He is callous with people. He punches poor ol’ Ned Ryerson right in the nose and figures how he treats people matters less than the pain he’s in. Hopefully, we won’t go to these extremes, but feeling angry toward the virus, other people, or decisions that are beyond our control are very normal. Remember, emotions are information. And anger is a secondary emotion. It never shows up first. Instead, it is a response to sadness, embarrassment, worry, feeling out of control, etc. Try to track down what emotion got you there in the first place and you may be able to head anger off at the pass.
Desperation: While we all will have good days and bad days, there will be people who encounter a mental health crisis. In the movie, Phil does get to the point where he is so desperate for a way out of his circumstances that he attempts to end his life. But here in real life? There is always hope. Most people who feel suicidal do not want to die, they just don’t want to live. Those are very different things. Many people feel better if they are given the chance to talk, connect, get access to missing basic resources, and potentially, professional care. Your local doctor remains a resource as well as several options listed here: Disaster Distress Helpline, National Domestic Violence Helpline, National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Acceptance: After fighting every way to change his circumstances, Phil eventually settles into his new reality. He recognizes he is in control of very little other than his response to the situation. He shifts his perspective from scarcity to abundance and, in doing so, begins to see opportunities. He uses his days, and his resources, to better himself and others and eventually learns how to be more in sync with his very strange situation.
Phil is all of us. In many ways, it feels like we just woke up one day to this weird, repetitive reality — and we don’t know when it is going to end. Two steps forward, one step back, doing the best we can with what we have until we sync up with this new normal.
Phil’s Groundhog Day ended eventually, and ours will too. Be safe, be gentle and love one another as best you can until that day comes.
A little less than five years ago, I spent Mother’s Day in the hospital. Across the room from me, our beautiful baby girl lay quiet, gravely ill. The whole journey to this point had been a big jumble of questions and unknown. I couldn’t articulate to the doctors what made me bring her in, “She just didn’t look right.” And, they couldn’t articulate what was wrong. But, everyone was in agreement, this was one very sick little girl.
In an effort to get answers, the doctors ran every test they could think of. No one knew exactly what was going on, and no one could say when, or if, she was going to get better. During that time, we just had to sit there, clinging to what tiny bits of information we could gather each day and simply…wait.
This current experience with COVID-19 has drawn me back to that place. As I did then, I spend a portion of each day researching, looking on my phone, searching for anything that might help me feel a bit more informed and grounded. Similarly, I am relying on the experts to do their jobs, give me what information they can, and offer data and test results as we go along. But sadly, just as it was then, no one can really say when this is going to get better.
As humans, anytime we face the unknown, we also seek out answers. I need you to know that’s normal. Seeking answers is part of the way our brains try to protect us. If we know the answers then we can prepare, and if we can prepare, then we can shore up the mental/emotional/physical resources for what’s coming. Except…
we don’t know what’s coming.
Are our children going to return to school? I don’t know.
How long is this isolation going to last? I don’t know.
When/how hard is our community going to get hit? I don’t know.
Can I plan for summer, for fall, take a vacation? I don’t know.
How many people are we going to lose? We just don’t know.
As a person of faith, I am beginning to view the data, decisions, and guidance we have access to as “information manna”. In the Bible, manna is the name of the little honey-flavored flakes of food that God provided for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. They had grown grumpy in their experience and started to demand to know where their provision was going to come from. Mercifully, even in their “grumbling”, God provided for them each morning with the manna they needed to get through that day.
Catch that. No more. No less. Just what they needed for the day.
Because of the unknown trajectory of this disease, we all just have to wait to see how it develops. And then, as the data comes in, the experts, officials, government, and schools will have the information they need to know how to proceed. As much as we want to prepare for the future, we simply cannot gather more information than there is. It is going to come to us as God wills, in His time, and according to the provision He knows we need.
So to that end, I am going to start trying to be satisfied on my daily “information manna”. If tomorrow I still don’t know if my kids are going back to school, that’s okay. I’ll find out when I’m supposed to. When I find out that isolation is being extended, or lifted, that will be the perfect time to find out. When tests come back positive and our local health experts are able to advise us further, I will respond accordingly. When we get to the point that I can discern if we should cancel our AirBnb for this summer, I’ll do it then. And when, probably not if, I know someone who is lost to this terrible disease, the God of all love and mercy will provide what I need for that day too. He always has, and as He always will.
Hang in there, folks. Please know that you are not alone in your desire to know more, but also that we cannot forcefully gather more than there is to take in right now. It is not a lack of faith to want answers, it is only a lack of faith to believe that you must have them to move forward. Be satisfied learning just what we need for today, and trust that He will send more information manna tomorrow as needed. After many long days of waiting for the information I needed, the day did come when I got to walk out of isolation and into the sunshine with my little girl. And He will let us know when we can go out again too.
Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Last Sunday I stood in church a little overwhelmed. As we worshiped I had the thought, “I wonder if this is the last time I will be able to come here?” As a couple of tears slipped down I felt a little silly thinking it might get that severe. And now, I feel a little silly thinking it wouldn’t.
The moment was poignant. I thought about how much I love my church. I thought about the people there and what it means to be able to come, each week, into that space to worship Jesus — and what it would be like if I couldn’t.
And that’s when they showed up.
As my physical eyes brimmed with tears, my mind’s eye filled with faces. Beautiful dark African faces and lighter Indian faces. Shrouded Middle Eastern faces and gaunt imprisoned faces. Shadowed Asian faces staring up from a basement church and missionary faces who are spreading the Gospel in places where their lives are, quite literally, at risk if they get caught.
They were faces I didn’t recognize and yet, I knew exactly who they were.
They were the faces of the buildingless faithful.
For many of us, this is the first Sunday of our entire lives when we do not have the option to enter a church building. To be extremely clear, it is not appropriate or responsible to compare our situation to places where you take your life in your hands to claim the name of Christ. We have the Internet. Many of us will attend church online. We are welcomed and even encouraged to practice our faith in the midst of these very different circumstances. And yet…
I am so grateful for them. As we face this strange little hiccup in our regularly scheduled faith practices, I am strengthened and encouraged by the “cloud of witness” who have come before us. The faithful who have lived in generations past and those who live now in places where they cannot freely gather. These incredible people, all around the world, who stand as examples to us. They are our “witnesses” of what it means to continue to worship, to learn, and to grow in faith even when our usual methods have been disrupted.
So as trite or inadequate as it may sound, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the countless men and women who have worshiped faithfully throughout time without structure, convenience or ease. Thank you for your mighty example that encourages us in our momentary troubles. Thank you for your faithful practice and presence as the church when we can’t meet in a church. We are so very grateful.
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash
This week has felt like whiplash. Our lives have changed so quickly that it is surreal to think about what it was like only a short while ago. But, as predicted, people have rallied. We have found solutions for our schools, our families, and our children. Truly, I am impressed. We have set the stage beautifully for this tenure into the unknown.
But now, please, let’s be very gentle as we give ourselves time to adjust.
No matter how effectively we have managed to rearrange our lives, it is not possible to fully “hustle along” the time human brains need to adjust. As adults, I suspect many of you are feeling as mentally “foggy” as I am. Our higher-order thinking is gonna’ take a while to catch up and our emotional brains are going to be trying to run the show for a while. All of this is a very normal part of the process that takes place when our brains have moved into survival mode as we face the threats (real and anticipated) that are part of our existence right now.
As you can imagine, if our fully-developed adult brains need this space for adjustment, the far less-developed brains of our children are going to need even more. In my own home, my worrier is attempting to elect himself the CEO of All Things, seeking control wherever he can. My free spirit is decidedly less free, prone to tears, and needing more assurance and snuggles than usual. And this Mama? I’m succeeding sometimes but I’ve also chosen hollering over hugs a few times too. We’re all just muddling through.
To some degree, we can all expect a period of physical and/or emotional regression as we move through this time. It is going to be very common, especially in these early stages, to see our children return to old or exaggerated patterns that you may have thought were long gone. Elimination issues (goin’ pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty), bed-wetting, sleep concerns, and physical acting out/tantrums may all be part of the transition, especially for younger children. Kids are more likely to be irritable, prone to tears, resistant to things that are normally not a big deal, and more worrisome than is common for their personality. They are working out, in their little kid way, how to make sense of these changes and where they can place their footing as it comes.
Here are a few things that may be especially important to consider as we all move gently into this new normal.
Control. Let go of the things you can let go of. Our kids are seeking ways to feel control in of this strange new experience. To the level that it is developmentally appropriate, give them creative license. I cannot let my 8 and 4-year-olds determine the schedule for the entire day, but I can definitely let them decide Mondays are pajama days, what shape their pancakes are, and where we are going to walk outside. Cash in as much appropriate control to them as you can because this situation will have us making withdrawals we usually don’t have to make.
Play. Pay attention to what your kids are playing. Following the changes this week, the themes of play in our home have become markedly louder, more panicked, and more driven by “calamity”. My kids have always played natural disasters (so many floods and tornadoes) but the intensity has increased exponentially. Children’s play is often how they deal with their real-life situations. It is essential that they have unstructured creative time to work things out in their imaginations. Observe, notice changes, and offer as much routine and comfort as possible as they heal themselves through play.
Touch. This is such a weird category as we are dealing with social distancing. But, so long as we have health in our home I am not social distancing from my children. We have to remember that prior to these changes, our tiny humans were not only getting touch from us, they were also getting high fives and hugs from their teachers and social touch from all their little buddies at school. Be aware that they may be touch deficient right now. Consider reading that extra book together, giving an extra cuddle, or taking on an additional round of living-room-wrestle-mania to fill this space.
Compassion. For yourself. For your kids. For the times when you tear up and you didn’t see it coming or your anger bubbles up because yet another option has been taken away. Tell your kids these changes are hard for everyone but you are so grateful for the opportunity to go through it together. Teach them what it means to embrace the waves of change so they will be able to ride them well later in life. Be patient with however long it takes you, and takes them, to find a way in this strange new experience.
We are adjusting folks, but we can’t be perfectionists about it. It takes as long as it takes, let’s love ourselves in the meantime.
*For an incredible resource during this time I wholly recommend looking into Aundi Kolber’s recent release, “Try Softer“. She speaks the language of self-compassion better than anyone I have heard in a long time.
Photo by Reign Abarintos on Unsplash
This week has been a strange one. I watched, in one evening, as the US closed its borders to all European flights, the NCAA barred spectators from attending games, and the NBA canceled its season. Then, on the same day, the mental health conference where I was scheduled to speak was canceled. And with that, the impact of the Coronavirus finally reached my doorstep — and it isn’t done.
There are so many opinions on how we are responding. And frankly, I’m not a medical expert so I’m not going to pretend to know. But I am a therapist. And I do know mental health. So, as we face the unknown of attending to our physical health, I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts that may also help support our mental health during this unusual time.
A large part of mental wellness is navigating control and perspective. That is, recognizing what we can control and choosing perspectives about the things we can’t. This particular situation pushes strongly against our sense of control and asks us to consider what perspectives we will choose. Below are thoughts on some of the things we are facing. I offer them with the hope that something in them may help comfort your heart, mind, and spirit during this time.
Isolation. While we may not end up being fully “quarantined”, we will have our routines altered. Some of it is going to be inconvenient (or downright awful) but we also have the chance to see it as an opportunity. We are often such busy people. When things get canceled it creates space. Space that can potentially be filled with rest, quality time, or simply, choice. This may be the moment where you get the chance to finish the sentence, “If I only had a little more time to…” Of course, not everyone will have this opportunity but if you do, fill the space well.
Information. I am typically a pretty low key individual. But, if I spend too much time pouring over articles about the people and potentialities involved, I will become overwhelmed. If you are sensitive to what you read and watch then you need to portion your intake. You can stay tuned in without being glued in. Find your balance.
Gratitude. This situation has led to some really powerful conversations about privilege. If you have a phone or a computer with the Internet to read this you are living through it with more than some. Focusing on what we are losing cues our minds to act in survival mode. Focusing on what we have helps us cultivate joy and have more to offer those around us.
What Ifs. As sure as the media sounds, no one really knows how this is all going to turn out. There are simply too many unknowns. Very little might happen or, sickness and loss of people we love is a possibility. Many of us will spend at least some time worrying, but we can also practice moving that worry into a space of appreciation for the people in our lives. That’s how we want to exist anyway, this just helps us get there.
Kindness. Folks are gonna’ be tapped out right now. Healthcare workers who haven’t seen a single case yet are already drained from endless meetings and preparation. The clerk at the grocery store has had to answer for the state of toilet paper on their shelves all day. And your average human just gets drained either absorbing or fighting off the fear that is simply hanging in our midst. Be patient. Be kind. Be the one who connects, offers empathy, or simply stands out for not being demanding. People are doing the best they can. Believe that.
Connection. Humans are made for relationship. Extended isolation is correlated with negative health impacts. And while this won’t be that long, the “usual” ways we connect will be affected for a bit. This is an opportunity for us to think creatively about the “who” and “how” of connection. Consider those long phone calls you have wanted to make, the letters of encouragement you could write, the social media groups you could cultivate or the ways you could spend time with your family that you normally can not. The uncommon moments you experience with others during this time could be a great gift.
Compassion. People don’t enjoy living in fear. Someone who may have managed calmly in this situation a couple years ago may not now because they recently lost a parent, are immunocompromised, or for other personal reasons. The way people respond to situations is complex. It is tied to their personality, upbringing, circumstances and available resources. If you find yourself thinking someone else is “more” or “less” of how you think they “should” be during this time, consider there may be more to it than what you see.
Helpers. Man that Fred Rogers, what a gem. There is a beautiful video where he talked about members of humanity who always show up in difficulty. And they will show up now too. They will be your neighbors, your community members, and the stories of exceptional human kindness that will inevitably find their way to us. They always show up and they give us hope and we will smile when they arrive again this time.
My fellow humanity, I have no idea what is ahead. But I know I trust you. And if you go out in the world today to pick up some toilet paper, make sure you smile at the cashier and pick up some stationary as well. The letters you may end up writing to one another are going to be beautiful.
I turn 40 today. This feels like the kind of age where stuff that doesn’t matter will start to matter even less and the stuff that does matter will float to the top. Serious and silly, practical and personal, below is a list of things that feel true at this stage. And, I offer it all knowing things
may will change as the journey continues. And that feels beautiful too.
- Hold traditions and expectations lightly. It may become beneficial to change them.
- A walk outside fixes many things.
- Satisfaction is crawling into bed with no alarm set.
- It will be a redemptive work of God if I ever like cooking.
- We all have biases. Look for them with courage.
- Extended, meditative prayer is fruitful. I want to spend more time doing this.
- Some people take to motherhood right away. Others warm to it like spring. I am the latter.
- Don’t try a bad habit just because it is intriguing. You might end up stuck with it.
- Love your children the best you can and ask God to fill in the gaps.
- You should have at least three self-care practices that don’t cost any money.
- I have always been flaky. I am recording this here so when I do goofy stuff at 80 someone will say, “Yep, she’s always been like that.”
- Some things do not change, even with effort. For me, it seems this is liking broccoli.
I think gray hair is beautiful. It sits on the heads of some of the most incredible women in my life. I’m keeping mine.
- Loving your spouse is nice, but I also suggest finding one who inspires you.
- Tears born of beauty and whimsy come easier with age. I am glad of this.
- Everybody has weird stuff. My armpits itch when I’m scared.
- I don’t really like conflict or competition. I am also a coach’s wife. I have questions for God about this.
- Garlic salt and butter fix many foods. Oh, and cheese.
- Be present. Be gentle with yourself. My Mother taught me that.
- I like being around people who are the unrealized version of my ideal self — like gardeners and librarians.
- (Almost) no one feels super confident as a parent. Be real. Be encouraging.
- Learning to fold fitted sheets well is folly. No one cares about the inside of your linen closet.
- Jesus grows sweeter with time.
- My middle sister can make me laugh harder than anyone else on the planet.
- A rich life is full of both conventional and unconventional accomplishments.
- “They” are a critical, negative and unaccountable group. Don’t listen to them.
- Savor practices that connect you to your heritage. I feel my Grandmother every time I see a beautiful sunset. She loved them.
- One of my fears is living in a post-apocalyptic world without my contacts or glasses.
- It is essential that children are given opportunities to practice independence.
- Television is like sweets. It’s great at first but after too much, I feel terrible. On the contrary, books never have this effect.
- Every once in a while, just watch your children sleep.
- Learn to appreciate funerals. They are sacred spaces for reflection and you are only going to keep attending more of them.
- Serving people well is a great art. My youngest sister is one of the best I know.
- You will make mistakes. You will make mistakes. You will make mistakes.
- Some of the things God asks us to do seem really silly to other people. Do them anyway.
- When I have a nightmare I hold my Bible like a lovey to go back to sleep.
- Feelings are not facts.
- Be open to who you are becoming.
- Cultivate people in your life who are brave.
- Know that any truth at any age may change and that’s okay. Jesus is the only perfect constant.
On this day I am so very grateful for each of you who has been a part of my life and supported this funny little writing journey. I wish you peace and abundant blessings.
Anne, the 40-year-old 🙂
Photo by Deva Williamson on Unsplash
I keep it pretty simple as a parent. I do my best to love and affirm my tiny humans while keeping them fed and clothed. I make sure they get outside. We read books. Nothing special, but hopefully consistent enough to combat any less-than-stellar parenting moments. But every once in a while, a unique little gem pops into our routine that is super helpful — so I figured I would share it with the village.
Long before having children, I was an advocate for emotional intelligence. The majority of my professional work has been with adolescent young men (and some women), many of whom simply didn’t know how to identify and/or work through their feelings. Fast-forward to SAHM life and the commitment to this has only been reinforced. Little people need the safety to feel, identify and learn to cope with their big feelings to eventually become functional adult versions of themselves.
And so, as a therapist, I get it. I’ll validate their feelings all day long. However, as my children have gotten older, I have started noticing that just validating their emotions seemed to leave them floundering a bit. Sometimes their distress seemed to be simply caused by not knowing how to ask about what upsets them. And that’s how the “knowledge question” was born.
So, what is the “knowledge question”? It’s basically an add-on response that helps when kids are worried and need information, in addition to having their feelings validated. It basically goes something like this:
“It sounds like you have a question.” (A reflection of their need for information) or,
“Would you like to ask a question?”/”Is there something you’d like to ask me?”
It’s been a game-changer. Let me give you a couple “for instances”.
My oldest currently worries about natural disasters. We have researched the area to make sure our home is safe from floods and note we’ve never been directly hit by a tornado. Then, the other night he walked into the living room and asked, “Can you show me a map of the world?” When I asked why, he broke into tears, “I don’t want to die from a tsunami!”
As I sat on my couch (in Missouri) I internally rolled my eyes. But then, I remembered the knowledge question. “I see that scares you, buddy. Would you like to ask a question?” And I watched it happen. The gears started turning, the tears dried up, and the scared little boy stood and asked, “Can tsunamis get to our house?” “Nope. Tsunamis only happen near oceans. We don’t live near the ocean.” “Okay Mom, thanks.” And off to bed.
You see, part of the reason the knowledge question (or knowledge reflection) works is that it’s empowering. In addition to validating our children’s feelings, we give them the opportunity to be information gatherers. The ability to seek out resources and knowledge is a foundational skill-set for their success in the world. And, when we offer the knowledge question, we give them a safe place to practice that with us.
Here’s another example.
My youngest is into “fairness”. At breakfast, I handed her brother two gummy vitamins. As I turned to get hers she burst into tears, “But I wanted gummy bears too!” I wanted to say something harsh (“Stop being ridiculous, I’m getting them”) but instead, was able to offer the knowledge reflection, “It sounds like you have a question.” Big blue eyes and crocodile tears looked at me and said, “Mom, can I have vitamins too?” I was then able to remind her to ask questions, be patient and then we moved on without me shaming my child and with her problem-solving skills enhanced. She was given the chance to advocate for herself, rather than having me fix the problem for her.
So, if you think the knowledge question might be helpful for your kiddos, here’s a few thoughts:
- It can take them a while to figure out how to ask a knowledge-seeking question. My four-year-old was initially frustrated, “I don’t know what the question is!” No worries, if this is the case it offers you an opportunity to work through how to form an information-seeking question as well as explore what might be bothering them. In the tsunami example, I might say, “What is it you are worried about?” His answer is going to point me toward whether he is worried about dying by a tsunami in Missouri or worried about the uncle who lives near the ocean we are planning to visit. Kids think some wild stuff and we can’t always assume why they are worried about something. This way, you get more information and then you can help them form what would have been an appropriate question afterward as practice.
- If they are “too far gone” emotionally, they will not be able to form a question. The prefrontal cortex of our brain is the first to shut down in a panic and we need that part to have any sort of rational thought. If they can’t come up with anything because they are too upset, focus on deescalating and try again later.
- They are not always going to like the answers we give them. However, no matter if they like it or not, remember to praise their problem-solving, resource/information-seeking efforts. If we actually lived near the ocean and needed to plan for a tsunami we would have just continued on our research journey. “Yes buddy, we could have a tsunami here but I am so proud of you for wanting to think through the options. What questions do you have about how we plan to be safe?” Or, if I had told my daughter “no” because she threw a huge fit about the vitamins I can still say, “I am so glad you asked me about having vitamins. What questions do you have to make sure you are able to get a gummy next time?”
Well, there you have it. Thanks for hanging with me. That was easily one of the longest blog posts I have ever written but this change in my parenting language has been so gosh darn effective with my worrisome, tear-prone kiddos that I really wanted to pass it along. I truly hope it may be helpful for you in growing investigative, independent, resource-obtaining little humans. The same ones who will come to us someday and say, “I had a problem and I figured out what I needed to know, all on my own!”
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash
Ah, Willy Wonka, you are such a unique and quirky piece of inspiration. As a child of the ’80s, I am partial to the original film starring Gene Wilder (no offense to the modern rendering with Mr. Depp). That said, the other night I finally took the opportunity to watch this cult classic with my children. It was whimsical and silly and weird and magical. I loved all the parts I always loved and fast-forwarded through the creepy boat scene like I always did. The entire film was (mostly) delightful as always.
It warms me to watch young Charlie Bucket live with such a generous heart in the midst of having so little to give. Even if that child never found a golden ticket, his love for his family and the very patient way he waits for provision would have been a lesson all its own. But, as we know, Charlie does find a ticket. The last golden ticket. And with that, he becomes one of the lucky few to gain access to Mr. Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory.
As I watched the film with my children, I relished in the example Charlie sets. He is the character I want to be. Charlie is patient and kind, always present in the moment and hopeful, no matter how difficult a situation may seem. His integrity is intact and his heart is pure save one small indulgence with the fizzy lifting drinks, from which he quickly learns and moves on. Yes, Charlie, I want to be like you.
Instead, I kept thinking, sometimes I act like Veruca Salt.
Ugh. You know her. This child was somehow perfectly cast to play the most entitled, whiny, bratty pre-teen of all time. She is a master of manipulating her parents to give her whatever-she-wants-whenever-she-wants. She has zero patience to let life come to her, instead grabbing at it frantically with self-driven motives. She regularly forgets what she has been given, consistently acting out of impatience and a lack of gratitude. And I really, really did not like how much I resonated with her.
This connection with Veruca’s character hopefully isn’t that obvious in our daily lives. Clearly, we do not demand that people buy us geese that lay golden eggs (although that would be cool!) nor do we manipulate people to do our bidding by unwrapping thousands of chocolate bars. No, Veruca usually doesn’t show up in these outward, dramatic demonstrations. However, she can show up in our faith.
“Arghh! God, why are you doing it this way?! I don’t understand. Why haven’t You given me what I need (read: want)?! I don’t want to wait/deal with this/be in this situation one moment longer. And, I am pretty sure I know a great solution. So, would You go ahead and take care of it in that way (please), like now-ish?”
The tone above may be exaggerated a bit — but if we’re honest? There have probably been more than a few situations in our lives where we had the opportunity to wait graciously like Charlie, remembering previous faithfulness and trusting that good will come. But instead, we found ourselves stomping our mental feet and grabbing at things, trying to control the situation instead of trusting that God knows what He is doing and will bring things together in His time. In short, we Veruca’d it.
I am so very grateful that we serve a loving God who is patient with us rather than a quirky chocolatier who sends us down the “bad egg” chute, no matter how much we may deserve it. May we all be more like Charlie today, and less like Veruca. And, when we do, we may just find ourselves in the “land of pure imagination“.
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.'” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT)
Photo by naomi tamar on Unsplash