I went to our grandkids VBS family picnic in the park this week. The first thing our Jude (4) and Sam (3) spotted was the face painting. They stood in line patiently thinking about what they wanted the lady to paint on them. It was an easy decision for Jude, she wanted a pink and purple butterfly with glitter. Sam first wanted a tiger face but at the last-minute choose a gecko. They couldn’t have been more excited about their first face paint. They were each riding high in the saddle.
After an evening of playing hard in the Oklahoma heat, it was time to head home for a bath and bedtime. The big mistake was we all failed to give them a heads up that the paint was temporary and the bath would wash away their precious face paint. Sam was the first in the bath and to his horror saw the green paint sliding down his face into the soapy water. His expression was a mixture of anger, loss, and sadness. Somehow Jude missed this whole episode because she happily jumped into the bath, oblivious of the trauma her brother was experiencing. Jude was still aglow from her lovely butterfly located on the prime real estate of her left cheek. Her mama washed her up and Jude never realized her butterfly was circling the drain.
As she walked into the bedroom, fresh out of the bath, she looked puzzled as to why Sam was crying so desperately. She caught a glance at his face and exclaimed, “Sam, what happened to your gecko?” She was very sympathetic but confident that this was his problem alone and all was well with her. Phil, Rachel and I caught knowing glances as we all realized we hadn’t prepared them for what was unfolding.
As we fell silent with widening eyes, she quickly studied our faces and perceived a problem as she carefully touched her face. It took less than 5 seconds before she realized her face paint was also gone. I’ve never heard such crying and seen such crushed spirits. They were crying in harmony with necks bent upwards to the heavens while tears rolled down their little faces.
Who knows what goes through a preschooler’s mind? For all we know they could have assumed the butterfly and gecko were now lifelong companions living happily on their faces. It broke my heart but I knew there was nothing to do but allow them to express the pain of loss. Rachel and Phil hugged and comforted them assuring they would have the opportunity for many a face painting in their future. They apologized for not giving them the information they needed to prepare for this situation.
I reflected on those minutes before Jude knew the truth. She was completely happy and totally unaware of what lay ahead for her. She was blissfully ignorant. We knew though… we would have stopped it had it been possible. It was a tough childhood moment they had to walk through.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but sadly we can’t always avoid the pain that finds its way to our hearts. The really interesting thing is we never know when those moments are going to strike. They usually hit at the most unexpected times. We are just happily strolling through our day and the bottom falls out. We are left spiraling down the rabbit hole of darkness while still wearing our party hats.
There are many truths in God’s word we can hold onto when we find our metaphorical gecko or butterfly spiraling down the drain …
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
I’m a pastor’s wife. The thing about being in the ministry is it’s tricky to find the balance for what I should know and what I am better off not knowing. I’d rather stay blissfully ignorant in the few moments when I believe there is still a beautiful glittery butterfly on my face. There was a time I felt I needed to know everything that was going on around me … every bit of information regarding our lives. Now? Not so much. I’ve tried to minimize the possibility of pain by limiting my interaction with the people I know don’t have good in mind for me or my family. If that glittery butterfly is getting washed off, I want to be the one holding the soap.
We can’t stop disappointment and hurt from landing on us, but we can stay strong in the Lord and His power so that when those moments come knocking on our door we aren’t devastated. We can control some things in our lives and it seems logical to do so. For the things we can’t control, we need to trust that God is faithful and will give us the strength to handle what comes our way.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)