I recently told my husband that I find the newborn days – even with all the round-the-clock feedings, sleep deprivation, postpartum recovery, etc., associated with them – to be easier than these toddler days we are also in now. At least when you have a newborn and you lay them down, they stay put – they don’t run away from you! Though newborns cry, they don’t fling themselves to the floor in dramatic shows of distress and temper. While newborns sleep a lot, toddlers seem to have what sometimes appear to be unending sources of energy. I tell ya, these toddler days are not for the faint of heart! They reveal what is deep in your heart and soul like nothing else can. I never fully realized the frustration and anger and selfishness I was capable of feeling and expressing until I had a toddler. Let’s face it- no matter how squeezable and chubby and cute our toddlers are or how much we deeply love them, they can sometimes leave us feeling like we are *this* close to pulling our hair out in utter frustration.
And this got me thinking…
There is nothing quite so convicting as when you are railing about something your toddler did and the Lord gently nudges your spirit and says, “My daughter, you are not much different than your own daughter.” What?? Yes, sadly, it’s true. We moms, though we think we are so grown up and knowledgeable and mature and possessing of far more wisdom than our little toddler people, oftentimes act like nothing more than dramatic toddlers ourselves in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Toddler Tantrums, Wanderings, and Questions, Oh My!
We moms find ourselves sometimes getting easily fed up with the never-ending repetitions of “Mama!!!” or “Why???” …. Yet how often do we go to our Heavenly Father with unending questions of, “Why did you let this happen?”, or “Why did you let that happen?”, or exasperated prayers of “Father, fix this!”, “Father, where are You in this?”, “Father, this is unfair!!!”, “Father, Father, Father!”
We moms (unreasonably) expect our immature toddlers to act maturely and to practice reason they do not yet possess when they instead fling themselves to the floor in a tantrum and we tell them to calm down and get up. And yet how often do we ourselves, adults who claim we should know better, do this with our Heavenly Father? “But I wanted this or that!!!”, “Why won’t You give me the desires of my heart?”, “Why do You have me in this season of waiting?”, “I know what’s best for me! Why won’t you let me have it?”, “It’s all so unfair!!!”. Sound familiar?
We moms feel our blood begin to boil when we issue to our toddlers a command and they don’t follow through on it the first, fifth, or tenth time and yet, again, how often do we fail to instantly obey our Abba Father? His commands to us are expressly laid out in His Word as clear as day, and yet we intentionally ignore them or reject them on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit nudges us to go witness to our neighbor or to volunteer at the soup kitchen or to financially give to our church more than we typically do, and we stuff that nudging down over and over until, finally, we may at some point, eventually, heed the admonition. Or not. How very much like a toddler.
We moms easily get bent out of shape when our toddlers act as if they know better than we do and fight against or question our instructions and admonitions. And yet we do the exact same thing with our Heavenly Father. We forget that He sees the big picture, that, as our Creator, He knows what is best for us, and that we can and must trust Him and His ways and standards. We fight and rail against His rules, are wise in our own eyes, and oftentimes stubbornly insist on going our own way.
We moms about blow a gasket when we tell our toddlers to come to us and they either stubbornly remain right where they are or even go so far as to run in the opposite direction. And yet, how often do we do the exact same thing with our Father God? “Come to Me”, He says and we reply with, “I’m too busy right now. I need to do this or that over here instead. This is a more interesting pursuit. I’ll have time for You later. I’ll come to You later. I’ll listen to You later. When the time is right for me and it better suits what I want to do and when I want to do it.”
How often do we wish our energetic toddlers would just sit still and do nothing for a moment? And yet how often do we fail to live up to this exact same wish of our Lord? “Be still and know that I am God”, He says, and yet we busy ourselves with a whole host of daily pursuits which we think are more important than time spent in quiet and stillness with the Lord, but are, in reality, quite futile and fruitless in comparison.
A New Perspective, Attitude, and Response
Let’s face it, we daily act like immature toddlers, as much as we would like to think otherwise. All the things our toddlers do that we respond to in frustration, anger, exasperation, or eye-rolling are things we ourselves do on a daily basis. And yet our Heavenly Father does not look at us with frustration, disdain, or eye-rolling. No, far from it! As annoying as we ourselves are when acting out of our own toddler-like tendencies, our Father responds to us with such grace, mercy, love, tenderness, understanding, kindness, patience, and forbearance every time. He knows we are but dust (Psalm 103:14), He knows that, though saved, we still struggle with our sin natures, and rather than railing us for that, He compassionately and lovingly seeks to help us rise above those struggles and failings.
While we have unrealistic expectations we regularly heep upon our little people, our Heavenly Father does not make this same imprisoning, confining, discouraging mistake with us. He doesn’t look at us, roll his eyes, throw up his arms, and say, “Good grief, they should know better! How many times have I told them to do this or that and they STILL don’t obey me?? What is wrong with them? If only they would do what I say, maybe they wouldn’t be in such a bind! If only they would trust me, maybe they wouldn’t find themselves in such a mess! I have about had it! I tell them over and over and over what they should do and the path wherein they should go, and they still stubbornly insist on their own way! I have had it up to here! I can’t deal with them anymore! I just can’t take it!” Instead, with us, His children, He comes to us in kindness and grace, patiently redirecting us again and again when we go astray, gently and lovingly reminding us of His ways and His commands and the wisdom thereof. Yes, He disciplines us, as well, but for our own good and never out of anger or selfishness or pride or a desire for His own comfort. He never disciplines us out of a place of annoyance or as a way to “Lord it over us” or because He is so spitting angry with us that He lashes out. No, not at all! That is not the heart of our Father God.
And neither should it be our hearts towards our precious little toddlers who act just as we do sometimes.
I don’t know about you, but I want to respond to my toddler with more understanding (for she is but dust just as I am, a sinner just as I am, with a sin nature just like mine). I want to see a toddler tantrum of hers and think, “Oh, how often I respond to my Lord like that!” and see the sinfulness in my own heart even as I experience and witness the sinfulness in hers. I want to remember that I’m no better than she is and not expect her to act with perfection when the ability to do so simply does not reside in us as sinners. I want to discipline her with love and grace, with a desire to see her relationship with me restored fully and in a way that points her to Christ and her need for Him. I want her to know that I don’t view her as the chief of sinners, that her Mama sins and struggles just as she does day after day after day. I want her to know her Mama needs Jesus and that that Jesus is always waiting for us with open arms for us to run to Him for help, forgiveness, and sanctification. I don’t want to view her sin with exasperation, frustration, or a holier-than-thou attitude, thereby offering to her a false picture of our Lord and how He deals with and views our sin. Instead, I want to model for her the grace, forgiveness, love, and tenderness that is to be found when we turn to Christ in repentance. When she questions me or fights against what I tell her to do or views my “No” to her request for candy as unfair, unloving, and the end of her world, I want to pause, understand her feelings, realize that I regularly respond to my Father’s “No” in much the same way, and humbly share those thoughts with her. To share with her that just as she is finding it hard to trust and obey me, I struggle to trust and obey my Heavenly Father, but that, ultimately, He knows what is best and sometimes tells us “no” precisely because He does love us.
With my toddler, I want to exchange the selfishness for selflessness. The exasperation for patience. The frustration for understanding. The high and mighty incredulousness with the realization that I act just as unreasonably sometimes as she does. The anger for empathy and compassion. The fierce, punishing discipline with a discipline powered by love and grace and a desire for restoration and growth in maturity. I want to do better. I don’t want to view my toddler’s sins, struggles, and failures with a “me versus her” mentality, but rather with an “us versus sin” mentality, an understanding that we are, together, but fellow sinners in need of Christ. Yes, I am her mother. Yes, I rightfully have authority in her life that I must act out of and practice. Yes, I should raise her to obey me. Of course! But I want to be the kind of parent to her that my Heavenly Father is to me, not a parent plagued by self-righteous indignation, frustration, selfishness, pride, and anger. I want to represent the Lord and His love well to my daughter, not act in a way that would drive her from Him or cause her to think that my exasperated self is a representation of how the Lord feels about and views her. Eternity is what is at stake here. The soul of my daughter is at stake. Her future is what is in play. All of which are of far more importance than my comfort, my ease, my desires, or my schedule.
Now if only I could remember this in a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis! 😉 Lord, help me!
God bless you, Mamas, as you raise your own toddlers (or teens as the case may be – I hear those two age groups are pretty similar! 😉 )!
Until next week,
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