TROUBLE IN PARADISE
Bathtime and bedtime are the times of day that I find my mama heart is most full and thankful. Beyond being a sort of finish line to the back straining marathon of lifting and transporting and bending and monitoring, It is the sound of my baby's feet splashing and his squeals of delight as he reaches for and rakes bath toy animals, the smell of his baby-shampooed head coming out from under his hooded towel, the feel of baby oil on his soft squishy skin, the smell of dreft on his warm footed PJ's, and the little indentions in his cheeks as he is reunited with his beloved paci. Sensory overload. I can't even.
We've had a really good thing going.
But I think my child is determined to ruin this sacred ritual.
An exertion of the will has begun on the part of this tiny human with whom we share our home. He has... preferences. And he also has a very loud voice, which he effectively uses to communicate those preferences. Shouting. All the shouting.
He doesn't want to contentedly sit in the bath and rake his toys, he wants to stand... and break his neck and my back in the process. He doesn't want to look at each other as we sing "jesus loves me" and have his nightly baby oil rub down (hello, first time mama over here). He doesn't want to lie still and turn over a "little people" farm piggy and sing to it sweetly while I put on his pj's. He doesn't want to stay on that page of the story until all the words are done. "Turn the page woman! I'll turn it myself," he communicates with his one syllable, super loud, repeated utterance of "AHK!"
I used to lay him down, quietly close his door, and wanna go back in and snuggle him. Lately I'm closing that thing and letting out a big heavy sigh of relief.
Where did he go? My precious, always grinning, compliant, patient babe?
Psychology would tell me this is natural and good. His personhood is being solidified and developing. This is cause for rejoicing, as is every developmental milestone. But his little protests and preferences are also a wake up call to me. I have been living in a dream world where words like discipline and tantrums were words that only existed in other people's realms. My perfect angel would never rebel.
Yes, Yes, I know. He's only 7 months old. For now, his little fits are developmental. He is finding his voice. This will enable him to have good boundaries and passions, and to discover his individuality and the unique gifts he's been given. And I love that he is spirited and fun. But the origin of his innate desire for autonomy cannot be ignored. It's roots are in a conversation with the serpent in the garden and sooner rather than later this will give birth to willful disobedience.
A LONGING FOR EDEN
The mourning in my heart as his development disrupts our shalom is a longing for Eden. I cannot imagine God's heartbreak as he was disobeyed and his relationship with his children was fractured and the beauty of his creation was marred with the stain of sin. I crave the harmony we were created to enjoy. There will still be plenty of precious moments that are windows to glory throughout his childhood and the life of our family, but it's folly to believe that there will not be friction between the sinful parents and the sinful child in this house.
AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF NEED
Every night I speak the same prayer rhythmically over this baby that he would never know a day that he doesn't know the love and saving grace of God through Christ Jesus. But how can he come to know this saving grace if he is never made aware of his need? Our lack of harmony points to both of our need for Christ. There is plenty of good cheer to meet this mourning. It comes in the name of Jesus. He breaks the power of cancelled sin and gives new life to those who are dead in their trespasses.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DISCIPLESHIP
Rather than view these moments of discord as regrettable, I can rejoice that they exist as opportunities to show Will his need for Jesus and to train him in righteousness and teach him that there is joy in obedience and freedom in submission to God's law. So far our "discipleship" of our child has been performed mostly in the way of teaching him that he is loved freely apart from his doing; changing him, feeding him, clothing him, holding him, comforting him, providing safety and protection for him, delighting in him... and that will continue. But soon we will begin teaching and rebuke. Without opportunity for reproach, our child will never know his need, and never experience restoration with us or with God.
A CALL TO PRAYER
Our recent experience of a fractured bedtime/ bath time routine (don't even get me started on back arching in the high chair/car seat) isn't just a result of Will's unregenerate developmental stuff. Mommy's reactions are all jumbled up in the mix. I'm panicking as I already feel my impatience and fatigue bubble to the surface as he doesn't listen and doesn't comply. At this point I can find a little comfort in not knowing what he understands just yet. But one day he will understand. And he will willfully disobey. And what am I going to do? For now, I'm going to pray, pray, pray. Because I'm already at a loss with my seven month old.
I don't want to be that mama whose 3 year old is walking all over her in the grocery store. But more than that, I want to paint of accurate picture of who God is for my child in the way I respond to his sin and repent of my own. I need God's gentle leading and the fruit of the Holy Spirit to guide me as I partner with my husband in arguably the most extreme form of discipleship. We will need wisdom and self control to see the difference between what is simply childish and what is destructive and foolish. We will need the selflessness to not take the actions of our son personally and to maintain the posture that his rebellion is ultimately against God and we are simply his agents (a thought from "Shepherding a Child's Heart", see the RESOURSES tab). Our child need's God's spirit to be at work in him to grant him the power to say no to disobedience and yes to the choices that bring life and peace. We must pray as we respond.
AN INVITATION TO REST
Although it is good to be aware of the reality of my son's depravity and need for a savior, as well as my own shortcomings and need for help and guidance, it is also important to remember that God is already at work. Our sin is no surprise to Him (although it seems like it snuck up on me. I can trust him to provide for our every need, so supply grace in my weakness, to be faithful to answer prayer, to offer guidance and power to carry out his commandments. Tomorrow has enough trouble for its own. Will is not in his terrible two's. He is seven months old. So I can begin to read and arm myself, but all the while I must rest in the knowledge that God goes before me. I will plant, David will water, but ultimately it is God who will give the growth.
THE HOPE FOR REJOICING
We were never meant to experience the chaos and unrest of this world. Not in our children's nurseries, and not in the violence and riots in the streets of our cities. But one day everything sad will come untrue (Sally Loyd Jones, JRR Tolkein). One day all that is wrong will be made right (Revelation). For now, may we as believers be bearers of light and agents of that harmony, offering hope to our children and hope to our neighbors because of the finished work of Jesus.