Before I had children, I thought the “because I said so” line was an uncreative, overused argument just used when parents had no good reason for what they said. In my naiveté, I was sure that I would always take the time to explain valid reasons for my decisions to my children, so that they would know everything I did was thoughtful and reasonable, in turn teaching them to make wise choices.
Ha! I had no idea how useful and completely valid that saying would be in my parenting/managing of two energetic boys' endeavors. While I do admit to saying, “because Mama said so” to get my kids to stop arguing over that toy in the cash register line and be quiet as I try to pay and load my groceries, I have been struck with how truly compelling it can be to explain my more thoughtful and reasonable choices as well. There are times when I, being the grown up who can see the big picture, need my boys to accept what I say simply because I said so.
These moments have happened more frequently with Liam lately as he becomes immensely curious about the world. Recently, we were in line at McDonald’s and Liam asked loudly, “Mama, how did that man’s ears get SOOOO big?!” After glancing apologetically at the poor man behind us, I had to firmly tell Liam that we would talk about it later. “Why, Mama?!”
“Because Mama said so,” I said quietly in his ear. Liam, fortunately, let the matter drop, although he gave me a very suspicious look that communicated his complete dissatisfaction. I smiled at his disgruntled expression. I knew that his trumpet-like inquiry was not malicious, but I could see the bigger picture. I could see that we needed to have a talk about tact, kindness to others and celebrating the different ways God made each person. But I could also see that now was not the time to have that discussion within the already embarrassed man’s hearing. I could see what Liam couldn’t about the situation AND how it would benefit him later.
I’ve started making this connection with how God deals with us. He really sees the big picture, and sometimes (or often) he asks us to obey because he said so and for no other reason—at least as we understand it. The perfect example of this in the Bible is when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This is another one of those stories that I’ve never particularly liked, because God seems capricious and careless with Abraham’s feelings and Isaac’s life. But really, of course, this story displays for us an example of how to react in the times when what God asks of us seems to be more than we can bear. God says the unthinkable to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22: 2). We don’t get to see Abraham’s emotional reaction to this command, but the next verse says that he made preparations to obey and took his son, two servants and the necessities for a sacrifice and headed to Moriah. The rest of the story is well known: Abraham and Isaac go to the altar, Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son and then at the last minute God tells him to stop and provides a ram to sacrifice instead. I’ve heard many explanations for God’s strange, maybe even cruel request, but the one I heard at The Women of Faith conference a few years ago changed everything for me.
A speaker pointed out that the key is verse 5 in which Abraham tells the servants to stay put while he and Isaac go to make a sacrifice. He says, “We will worship and we will come back to you.” Then in verse 8, Abraham tells his son, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” I think I always saw these two statements as wishful thinking on Abraham’s part, but instead I now see that they are said out of faithful conviction—conviction of God’s goodness and infallibility. God had promised Abraham he would have as many descendants as the stars, beginning with Isaac. Abraham may not have understood why God was asking him to sacrifice Isaac, but he trusted in what he knew God to be—truthful and good—and he said with conviction that both he and his son would return from the altar.
This gives me hope. I don’t have to understand God’s actions or leadings in my life; I just need to accept and believe what he says he is in his Word and what he’s proven to be in my life: faithful, true, all-powerful, all-knowing, and in total control.
My first deep understanding of this actually happened when my poor second son got circumcised. Sparing the details, the procedure did not go well and we went through a solid two weeks of painful ministrations in order to help his wound heal properly. During that time I felt intense empathy for Sawyer’s pain and confusion. He didn’t know why we had to cause him pain every time we changed his diaper. He didn’t care that this would actually benefit him a great deal in the future. All he knew was that the pain was consuming him right now, and not only did his mommy and daddy refuse to fix it, they actually seemed like they were causing the pain.
During that time, I started to see the painful times in my life a little differently. I have questioned God during times of chemo, death and darkness. I have cried out because at times he seems to be the source of my pain, whether through his seeming inaction or his excruciating correction. But as I cried with my brand new Sawyer writhing on the changing table, I could see that sometimes seeing the bigger picture and knowing the hurt is going to benefit my child later is a very painful perspective as well. God does weep with us, but he also sees beyond our pain to the big epic tale of our entire lives. Not only that, he sees how everyone’s story weaves together into the fabric of humanity in its entirety from the beginning of time through eternity. Now that’s a big picture.
So when I am unsatisfied with “because God said so” as an explanation to my hard questions, I can turn to what I know of God. I can mimic Abraham and climb that daunting mountain, knowing that God will provide. Why? Because he said so.