"I need more milk. More milk."
"Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I have more milk?
"Chair! Scoot me in!"
"Mama, may I please have more milk?
Each request, on its face, is quite reasonable. The three-year-old needs more milk, and after several iterations she has asked for it nicely. The two-year-old is about to fall under the table unless someone scoots his chair closer to his food. And the baby... is a baby and simply needs something, most likely to be picked up out of his chair where he has been placed to wait for his turn at baby food, which he will receive in in between sprinting to the refrigerator for more milk and grabbing the two-year-old as he topples off his chair.
No, these requests are fine. But it is the immediacy of everybody's needs all at the same time that is my undoing. Every. Single. Morning. Predicably each day around 6:30 a.m. I am found in the kitchen, trying to reamin calm. I attend to each child individually, in turn, which inevitably this means that someone has to endure an additional five seconds of excrutiating pain.
It is only when I step back and consider this moment, usually later during naps when they are all quiet and sleeping, that I am able to appreciate the validity of the needs expressed in this scene. After all, each of my children is an autonomous, beautiful human being. And in their world, each of them are the center of the universe around which the rest of us are to rotate, predicably, attending to their every need. I know that I act the same way. It's just that I'm not three, or two, or 8 months old, and so I've learned to couch my selfishness in other, socially acceptable ways. And most of this surfaces during Lent, the time when we give up the things that we typically turn to when we are pressed and tightened and should turn to God but instead eat a bite of chocolate. Okay, maybe we eat the whole package of chocolates. The point is that I wonder at the supreme patience of God, our common Father, as I continue to pray, day after day:
"I need..." "I ask for..." I want..."
I considered this today as I warmed my undrunk, lukewarm coffee in the microwave for the third time. On mornings like these I want to shout to the pint-sized trio sitting acoss from me: "What about MY needs! What about my coffee!" But God, our merciful, loving, and longsuffering Father, does not rebuke us for our requests about ourselves. He lets us pray about our needs until we are done, and then, gently, He will nudge us. There are others out there, you know, the Holy Spirit prods.
And so this morning as I reflected on my earlier prayers of the day I found that they were not all that unlike my children's morning song. My prayerful requests reflect genuine needs, faithful wants, and heartfelt desires. But they are first about me. Is this how the Lord has taught me that I am to pray? Is it not first about His Kingdom, and second about my daily bread? I am not an infant any longer. I am not a toddler; nor am I three. And so it is with quiet conviction that I return to my prayer chamber. Humbled. Start over, I think. This world, in fact, does not revolve around me.