Kids squeal. Water splashes. The smell of coconut oil and chlorine drift on the breeze. To a child, we have reached paradise. A swimming pool in the summer.
Plastic toys spill out of beach bags and float around like time bombs in the water. Parents drift alongside their offspring wading fast and slow in hopes to head off a meltdown by distracting them from a new toy that has been momentarily abandoned; seemingly available for the snatching.
Conversations rise and fall as kids come and go for naps, lunches and bathroom breaks. "But he has a green squirt gun dad! I have a red one. I want a GREEN ONE!" And we try and explain: they are the exact same squirt gun. Just a different color. But logic falls with a dull thud. Our soft voices and gentle, but urgent, pleading become echoes in the canyon of that's-way-cooler-than-what-I-have. They can not hear us. They will not hear us. They are entranced by the unattainable.
And here I am bobbing like a cork next to my daughter and watching my own son literally run back and forth from content to discontent as new balls, water guns and float toys enter the scene. His little three-year-old brain spins; trying to process emotions and longings that he can't name–anger and awe and envy. Grown up issues that he is absolutely defenseless against.
And I realize that we are not born with the innate understanding on how to be happy. We have no clue what it is that will satisfy us and what will leave us empty and itching to get our hands on what someone else has. We are born full of want.
On this particular sunny day in paradise, it started and ended with rocket ships. My son's new friend Carson had brought in two "rocket ships"–actually airplanes. One was red and one was yellow. I saw the storm swirling overhead. Thunder clapped. Lightning struck down. Envy unleashed. "Mom! He has rocket ships. I want a rocket ship!"
Carson was not about to share the rocket ships. My son begins explaining that he needs to share. Carson disagrees. The combination of too much sun not enough breakfast and the teetering insanity of toddler reasoning culminated into chaos. The tears begin. The scene is made. It is time to go. NOW.
As I am trying to navigate an escape route with hand signals to my husband across the pool we begin hastily gathering our wits. Our son continues to melt down. This triggers rapid spelling, "He just needs a N-A-P," I yell. My husband grabs our daughter and begins gathering our stuff, shooting back, "I know, and F-O-O-D." I nod incessantly, "Yes, and he needs to go P-O-T-T-Y." And it continues that way for a minute or two as I try to coerce my son into leaving the rocket ship battlefield.
He sees us moving toward the exit and panic ensues. "No mom!" I don't want to go!" Tears begin forging into waterfalls. His chin quivers. "I'm happy mom! I'm happy!" Wails and arm slapping enter the negotiations. "Mom, see I'm happy!" Tears running in thick streams. He truly thinks I will believe that he is happy by telling me that, even though his blotchy and exasperated face tells the real story.
My face flushes red. Half-embarrassed by the scene we're making over Carson's inability to share (as if my son has never withheld a toy from someone for the sheer joy of it) and half-embarrassed by my own reflection that I am beginning to see in my son's broken little heart. His brokenness over the stuff. The sense of loss. The fear of missing out.
And I suddenly feel bad for him. He can't identify envy. He doesn't understand why it is twisting his heart in knots. He doesn't understand that this behavior is going to cost him what he already had. A fun afternoon in the pool.
And more than all of that, my sad little son is letting the idea of losing something he never had become more important than trusting that mom and dad knows what he needs most. Rest. And sustenance. A cool, calm dry place out of the hot sun.
We successfully completed Operation Escape the Pool of Envy after a couple of failed attempts. But I made it out alive and with enough composure that I am able to detail the encounter with some clarity in this blog.
As I was finally tucking my son into his bed. I felt it.
Whether we are three or thirty-three, the hunt for happiness will never end well when we don't trust that our Father knows what is best for us.
Rest for the restless.
Rest for the brokenhearted.
Rest for the unloved.
Rest for the overworked.
Rest for the unemployed.
Rest for the disliked.
Rest for the ordinary.
Rest for the overlooked.
Rest. Not relaxation. Not something that we dream of during toil filled weeks. Not a vacation. Not a break from reality.
Soul rest. The kind that we will find when we close our eyes to the distractions and temptations of want and we open our eyes to what we have right in front of us. Empty space. Open hands. Ready to accept the good news of grace. It is more than enough.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Rest in that.
We're in this together,