We spend some summer weekends at a nearby lake with my husband’s family. Our kids love to swim and boat, play with their cousins, and fish. Usually my oldest son (six) is making plans on the drive up to the lake. “Dad, can we swim right away?” “Can we golf?” “I want to play basketball and then ride my bike around the circle.” He’s got it all figured out.
On one particular weekend, we were having friends join us at the lake. So we had somethings to get ready before they arrived to make our weekend fabulous. But my son had already requested to go fishing, and my husband figured there would be plenty of time. So he made a trip to get the bait, and the fishing was just about to begin.
But then . . .
My husband stopped on the deck to open up the picnic table umbrella. From time to time we have discovered a friendly neighborhood bat who has claimed the closed umbrella as a nap spot while no one is around at the lake house. When Mark started to open the umbrella, he was met by not one but FOURTEEN bats tucked in the folds. And so began the long process to get the bats to fly out of the umbrella and then cleaning up the HUGE mess they had left behind. We wanted to use the table and enjoy the deck by the lake with our friends after all.
Meanwhile . . . back inside the house . . .
The firstborn child is losing his ever loving mind. “I wanted to fish. Dad said we could fish. I want to fish now. When is dad going to be finished? I want to fish.”
Being a firstborn myself, I recognized what was going on. Callen had a plan. He had structured his afternoon. He had an agenda. (I was once told by an awesome Sunday school teacher that “Callen has ambition!”) And these bats were interrupting his plan.
So I took the advice of Paul Tripp from this video and used this opportunity to identify with Callen’s struggle.
Our conversation went something like this:
Buddy, I know you are disappointed because you wanted to go fishing when we first got to the lake. You had a plan. You had agreed on that plan with dad. He bought bait and you were ready to go. Wanting to have a plan is a big part of your personality because you are the biggest brother in our family. And lots of times, that will be a great part of your personality. You are the firstborn. And mommy is a firstborn too. I really like things to go the way I’ve planned them. I like for things to work out all nice and neat. And when that doesn’t happen, when something interrupts my plan or gets in the way, I can get really disappointed. And really, that’s kinda selfish and prideful. But sometimes buddy, stuff just happens that we didn’t plan on happening and sometimes its stuff that has to be taken care of before we can move on. Today, you had a plan to go fishing right when we got to the lake. But then dad was getting the place ready for our friends to join us and he found those 14 bats in the umbrella. And they made a big, dirty mess that we had to have cleaned up before we could use the deck. And that got in the way of your plan. And you are disappointed and frustrated. And I completely understand that feeling. But Callen, sometimes there’s 14 bats. You didn’t plan on them. They weren’t “on the schedule.” But sometimes 14 bats come along and its something you have to take care of anyway. We have to learn – you and me both – how to deal with our disappointment and frustration when our plan gets interrupted.
Somehow . . . by God’s grace . . . it seemed that Callen understood. He’ll continue to struggle. I’m 40 something and I struggle. But somehow, by God’s grace too, maybe Callen will learn earlier in life how to be flexible and to deal with disappointment. Maybe he can begin to learn now how to trust God’s plan and His ways and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Because sometimes in life there’s 14 bats . . .
(To all my English teaching friends . . . please forgive the improper use of “there’s”!)