Sometimes, lessons about God’s providence have to be learned the hard way. This story is one such instance:
One sunny, humid, 80-degree day in August, I told my kids that some friends had invited us to go boating the next day.
They were ecstatic.
The last time they’d been on a boat was more than three years earlier. They counted the hours with giddy anticipation.
The next morning, we woke up to rain. And thunder. And lots of rain.
My husband called from work around 9:30 in the morning and said our boating adventure had been postponed because of the weather.
As I conveyed the news to my kids, their shoulders sank in disappointment. My seven-year-old was the one to voice his discouragement: “But I wanted to go TODAYYYYY!”
I did my best to console him by telling him we could go next week. He went straight for my phone to check what he likes to call “the weathercast” — he wanted visible proof from the radar that it was, in fact, going to rain ALL day.
After the masses of green on the screen convinced him that boating was not in his immediate future, he conceded.
A few hours later, I was down in the basement with my kids, and we were crushing empty boxes for recycling.
Suddenly we were standing in wetness, with rivulets of water flowing past our feet on the concrete floor. I’d like to say I remained calm, but we all went ballistic, trying to determine the source of the leak. After realizing the water was coming in from the windows, dripping down the walls and across the floor, I called our landlord to figure out what to do.
He guessed that the source of the problem was a blocked window well. After offering to come over, he suggested that in the meantime, we try to clear the leaves and other debris from the wells outside.
The rain was still pouring down, so I told my eldest two kids to stay in the basement and try to control the water flow on the floor, while my seven-year-old offered to help me start digging and clearing leaves outside. He eagerly ran to the closet to get my rain coat for me, to the kitchen to get garbage bags, and finally to the garage to grab shovels.
I ran upstairs to change my shoes and promptly slipped on the wood floor — it, too, was covered in water, thanks to my negligence in forgetting to close the window. I called my eldest two up from the basement to dry my room and headed outside with my youngest.
As we stood there, hovering over window wells, hands covered in mucky leaves and soil crawling with insects, my son said to me, “Well, now I can see why we didn’t go boating.”
For a second, I thought he was referring to the fact that it was still raining, but his tone indicated a deeper meaning.
He went on: “If we had been on the boat, your whole room would’ve flooded, and we never would’ve known about the water in the basement. It’s a good thing we stayed home.”
Even in his disappointment, he recognized God’s providence.
I commended the maturity of his thinking, and we talked about God’s providence as we hunched over and dug wet earth together with plastic, kid-sized snow shovels.
If given a choice, he would have much preferred to be gripping a rope attached to the back of a boat, skidding over water as the boat sped along with a giant inner tube bouncing behind. Instead, he was gripping a plastic garbage bag while I heaved piles of sopping leaves inside, water skidding off both of our backs, our feet planted in soggy mulch.
But in that moment, my son realized that God’s plan for our day was better than his own desired plans. And he was okay with that.
Every so often, we get to witness these full-circle moments as parents. Moments that come so unexpectedly after years of teaching and consistent reminders.
We do our best to teach our kids about God’s providence, and then one day they start teaching us.