I have some unofficial, but pretty reliable scientific evidence which suggests there’ll be a high volume of tiny Moanas roaming the streets this Halloween.
I’m basing this on the fact that there was only one Moana costume left at Target when we were there several weeks ago. My five-year-old spotted it from afar, as if she were equipped with some sort of advanced Moana-costume-tracking-radar.
She raced toward it and yanked it off the rack, breathless with excitement and babbling on about her sudden plans to dress up as Moana this year and wasn’t it so perfect that there was one costume left and we found it at just the right time and could we get it Mommy, could we, Mommy, please could we, Mommy? Please?!
I stood there trying not to cringe. You see, I’m not a huge Halloween mom. It partly has to do with the fact that as a kid, I was terrified of costumes, even happy-looking ones. So I didn’t love having to be out and about in a sea of masked faces while trick-or-treating each year. To this day, I’m still a little uncomfortable around mascots. Once not too long ago I was heading into Chick-fil-A and the cow was standing there, greeting people at the door. I turned around with a shudder and went through a different entrance.
I’ve probably got some weird, deep-rooted psychological issues to work out.
The point is, I’m not a huge Halloween mom. I’ll let the kids dress up for costume parades at school, and we’ll go trick-or-treating with friends, but the kids’ costumes are usually low-key; something we’ve borrowed or made with minimal time and effort. I found this one for free on a consignment website when my daughter was a baby:
This year, I was hoping my little girl would choose something from her dress-up box. She seemed okay with that idea. Until she saw the Moana costume, that is. As she stood in the store clutching the costume and looking up at me with big, excited eyes, it was clear there’d been a shift. In that moment, her very happiness hinged on leaving the store with this costume in hand.
“I don’t know,” I told her. “We need to think about it.”
Her face fell. “Why?” she asked.
“Well…” I took the costume from her and examined it, buying some time. That’s the thing about parenting. There always seems to be a pop quiz you didn’t study for. One minute, you’re minding your own business shopping for lightbulbs, and the next, you’re trying to find an age-appropriate way to explain to your preschooler that you can’t give in to her every whim because it would set her up for a lifetime of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. It’s tricky business.
I got lucky though, because I noticed the costume was two sizes too big. “Well, for one thing,” I said, “this costume isn’t the right size for you.”
“We can make it fit,” she said. “Please, Mommy. Please!”
“Let’s think about it a little more.” I ushered her away from the costume, and she strained her neck to look at it as we went.
The costume remained a hot topic of conversation all throughout the store, and in the car on the way home. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t have it, right then and there.
At one point as we were driving, after I’d explained to her (again) that the costume was the wrong size, she said, “I know it doesn’t fit me… I just want it so much.” Her tiny voice was raw with emotion.
Now, let me just stop and acknowledge that this definitely falls into the category of first-world problems. There are children with much, much greater needs in the world than a perfect Halloween costume. I am not trying to magnify this desire into an actual need. It doesn’t even hit the radar.
But, oh, how I could relate to those simple, honest words, “I just want it so much.”
I know as my little girl grows, she will learn what it is to have real heartache. It’s an inevitable part of living in a broken and fallen world. She fell into thoughtful silence after her confession, and I reflected on the I-just-want-it-so-much moments of my own life: longing for a child after a loss; dreaming for a house when it seemed like it was impossible; wanting nothing more than to wake up one morning and realize cancer wasn’t a reality, but just a bad dream.
We don’t outgrow the I-just-want-it-so-much moments. We learn to live with them a little better, perhaps. We learn to hide our suffering. We learn to put on a brave, everything-is-okay face, reserving our true feelings for our innermost thoughts.
And somewhere along the way, as we condition ourselves to quiet the I-just-want-it-so-much voice, we get to a place where we learn to keep that same simple and honest voice from crying out to God. I know I have, at least – I can pinpoint times when I’ve come to the Lord in prayer as my “cleaned up” self; praying what I think I should pray instead of trusting God with my real I-just-want-it-so-much heart. As if he can’t handle my true, uncensored feelings. As if he doesn’t already know all about them.
Paul Miller writes in his book A Loving Life about the importance of crying out to God in our moments of despair and disappointment: “A lament puts us in an openly dependent position… it’s pure authenticity… to not lament puts God at arm’s length and has the potential of splitting us. We appear okay, but we are really brokenhearted.”
Pure authenticity… my five-year-old has it, and I love that about her. I want her to hang on to it. I want her to develop a relationship of pure authenticity with her Heavenly Father as she grows.
So I figured we could practice. I figured we could practice now, with her earthly father, while it was still something as easy and trivial as a costume at stake.
I turned down the radio and told her, “There will be times when you feel this way. There will be times when you want something so much. And when that happens, what you need to do is go to your father and tell him all about it. Then wait to hear what he says.”
“You want me to tell Daddy?”
“Yes. I want you to tell Daddy.”
“And I can ask him for the costume?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You can ask him for the costume.”
She considered this for a while. “What if he says no?” she asked.
I thought this question might be coming. “Well…” I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “There will be times when you want something so much, and you tell your father all about it, and you ask him for the thing you want. And the answer is no. Or, not right now. That will happen sometimes.”
“But, Mommy… what if he says no?”
“Your father is good. And he loves you very much. And he knows what’s best. So if he says no, you can still trust him no matter what. Even if you’re disappointed. Even if you’re sad. He will still love you. And he will still be good. And he will still know what’s best.”
I glanced into the mirror again and saw her purse her little lips.
“Will you tell your father all about it?” I asked.
“Yes,” came her determined voice from the backseat.
When that little girl’s father came home, he heard all about the Moana costume before he even set foot in the house. He didn’t know he was part of this big-important-practice-drill, helping his daughter practice talking authentically with her Father in Heaven. But my little girl is blessed with the best dad ever, and he did exactly what I suspected he would do. He listened to her every word with a delighted expression on his face. And when she asked if he would take her back to the store right then and there, he told her no. He explained it would be best to wait a little while before making a decision. He told her he wanted her to have a costume that fit her perfectly.
It went on for a little after that. It was a purely authentic conversation, and I pray she will remember it always.
I’d do well to remember it, too. I’d do well to follow my daughter’s example and talk to my Heavenly Father with that same brand of pure authenticity. We all would.
The thing I most want to share with you today is this:
You can talk to God like that. You can trust him enough to tell him your biggest desires. You can lament if you need to. You can tell him when you’re disappointed and terrified and utterly discouraged. You can do all this even if you don’t know God too well. Perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks to being close to God is authenticity. There is this illusion that God only wants to hear from “happy” and “whole” people, but open the Bible and you’ll see lament after lament – gut-level honest prayers in the book of Psalms.
It’s okay to get real with God. It’s okay to deal with difficult emotions in prayer, to open up the ugly places of our hearts with pure authenticity. It’s okay to tell him your I-just-want-it-so-much feelings, even if you’re afraid of what the answer will be.
It feels risky, sharing our hearts with pure authenticity. We’re not used to doing it, because we live in a culture of “I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” But God already knows the not-fine places in our hearts. Perhaps it’s time we start getting to know him a little better, too.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7
In case you’re wondering how the costume business worked out:
After the initial disappointment of not getting the costume she so desperately wanted, my daughter did end up getting to dress up as Moana this year. We made her dress together, carefully selecting fabrics and trims. And yeah, I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time making an elaborate costume this year, but I did it anyway, because I wanted to show her something. I wanted to show her that when she brings her purely authentic heart to her father, she won’t always get exactly what she wants exactly when she wants it. But, in the right time, she just might get something which fits her perfectly.
Perhaps to really drive this point home, I should’ve had her dad make the costume. Next year, I guess.