Sorry, Jonathan Edwards. I know I stole your idea, but I like my title better. ;)
I’m increasingly impressed by the things the Lord uses inside my new role as a mom to train me up and to bring me to a greater awareness of my need for Him. Abi Kate is definitely an explorer, like most babies her age. It seems like a second ago I could sit her on the floor with some toys and she’d play FOREVER just sitting there. Oh my, are those days gone or what?! Do they make baby sticky pads?! This mobile babyhood stage is exciting and filled with fun but also filled with exhaustion. I think she’s just making sure I stay young for a long time. I’m ok with that. :) If there is a pile of toys on the floor, be sure that my daughter will find the lone crumb in the carpet to snack on instead. Flashing toys, wooden blocks, and baby dolls just can’t compete with a pile of dog hair in a corner that the vacuum missed. Thankfully, her colon works just great so it all “comes out in the wash” so to speak. ;)
When she started really getting around at about 8 months, she was introduced to the wonderful world of “No, No.” I was fairly convinced for awhile that I’d given birth to one of those kids with defiant disorder. She totally laughed whenever I said “No”. So, I put on my serious “teacher face” and made sure to drop that playful tone out of my voice and this elicited nothing but a fit of giggles from her. I was starting to sweat it. Everything I’d learned about a baby’s learning timeline flew right out the window & my fear of having “that kid” became paramount. I believe at one point I told Tommy, “What were we thinking?! Spending all that time praying about her birth and breastfeeding and sleep. We should’ve been praying about her behavior!” Thankfully, that moment of drama on my part ended. He’s a good stabilizer ;). It took her a few weeks, but she slowly started learning what the word “no” meant. Now that she’s 11 months old, she definitely knows what it means. But what’s funny is that I watch her, even at such a young age, struggle with sin. Our laptop has to stay plugged in at all times or it dies (thanks, crappy battery). There’s nothing Abi Kate would rather chew on than a plugged in laptop cord. She has been redirected and told ‘no’ more times than I could possibly count regarding this cord. We’ve moved it, lifted it up, blocked it, etc. But she will pursue it until the ends of the earth. She has climbed pillows, gotten herself wedged in between an ottoman and side table to reach it. And every time she gets near it, she looks at it, says “No No” and looks back at me. I can literally watch her contemplating her choice. I remind her no with a shake of my head. And she shakes her head at the cord and repeats “No” again. She’ll often look back one more time and barely reach out and put one lone finger on it, and look back at me to see what my response is. She did this with the Christmas tree, too. Doing whatever she had to do to get close enough to the tree to barely reach an ornament. Sometimes, she’d cruise her little self away from the tree after telling herself “no no.” But more often than not, she’d try to reach it, sometimes even drawing her hand back when she saw I was watching. And sometimes, she even hurried to try and snatch an ornament, crawling away as fast as she could when she saw me coming. Here’s an unpopular idea that most of our culture and even lots of believers don’t like:
My baby is a sinner. Even at her sweet, loveable & innocent age of 8 months, she was a sinner. And like all sinners, she needs a Savior.(And yes, I do believe in the age of accountability, but I’m not covering that in this post). She does what she does because, yes, she is curious and learning and this is how she grows. However, she also does what she does because she was born into sin, a fully fledged flesh nature ingrained in her from the moment of conception. I believe that children do see examples of poor behavior and mimic it, but I also believe that they choose to mimic it because they are “tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1: 14) They absolutely have the option not to mimic poor behavior, not to disobey, not to hit, not to respond disrespectfully, but they don’t. And it’s not simply because they’re innocent or learning and have been influenced by others. It is because they were dragged away by their own desires. Like it or not, it’s biblical. Don’t think kids are sinners? Go hang out in a Kindergarten class for a few hours.
I don’t think any believer likes to think of their child as a sinner. I certainly don’t. But I believe when we do acknowledge it, it changes our response to them. It allows us to speak biblical truth into their lives, even from a young age, to model and teach Christ-like choices and holy living. To blame other people or other things for our own child’s misgivings perpetuates a victim mentality and teaches children to blame other people and other things for their poor choices. That’s not something we plan to teach our daughter. It’s a hard scenario, and it will only become harder as she grows, I know. At her young age, she isn’t really influenced by others yet (whew, not ready for that stage yet!). It is her own nature that drives her. And trust me, it does drive her! I certainly give credence to the idea that yes, children do see behaviors from others and they act upon them. I believe in environmental exposure and the way that affects a child’s upbringing, behavior, psyche, etc. But I don’t believe that knowing and agreeing with those secular ideas releases me from the realities of spiritual reasoning and from our role as Abi Kate’s spiritual leaders. We want to teach her to look at things from a biblical perspective, to evaluate choices, behaviors, and attitudes of herself & of others with the view of Jesus, not with the view of our culture. Will this look different at every age? Of course it will. Obviously, a 10 minute sit down conversation about sin nature isn’t going to happen with a 15 month old. Nor is a discussion about another child’s home environment going to happen with my 3 year old. I’m a fan of age appropriateness in all situations, including this one. But that doesn’t mean that my theological beliefs shouldn’t color the way that I respond to her when she is disobedient. It means that I acknowledge that biblical truth is applicable not only to adults but that it applies to my baby as well. It means that I drop the attitudes of “it’s not her fault” or “she wouldn’t do that on her own accord” or “she’s just kind and innocent and learning” and accept that yes, it was her choice whether she’s young and learning or is repeating what another child did. We can’t train her up to acknowledge her sin and need for a Savior if we’re busy putting off her choices on someone else or something else. Those two things stand in opposition to each other. It’s important that I submit to this idea, and not just with my words, if I want to see an eventual heart change in my child. Think little kids don’t pick up on your attitudes regarding their choices? Wrong. Go ask a teacher whose dealt with kids who have parents that make excuses for their preschooler. They’ll be happy to enlighten you. I don’t want my love and adoration for her & her innocence to gloss over her need for accountability. She will pick up on that. As she grows I’ll have to consider what I’m doing-- Maybe I’ll need to model better choices, maybe I’ll need to engage her in role play activities to help her understand, or maybe I’ll just simply need to hit my knees a little bit harder and ask that God would give her a soft heart and an awareness of wrong choices. Our prayer now is that God would give us the wisdom to accept that her choices result from a sin issue, to know how to gently but effectively respond to that at each age, and to know how to lovingly steer her towards the cross. When we pray over her every night, Tommy always prays that God would give her a soft heart towards the things of the Lord even from the earliest age. I believe that God honors the prayers of the righteous, so I’m claiming that for my daughter, for her salvation.
Sometimes it is hard for me to accept the current condition of her soul. I am absolutely in love with this baby girl. I adore everything about her. She has my heart completely wrapped up in every little action, smile, and giggle. I don’t like to think about her having any traits that are less than lovely. But I know that she does. In fact, for awhile as a newborn, we really thought she was Tommy made over; and in a lot of ways she is. However, as her personality began to develop, it was clear that she is also my child, and unfortunately some of those less than lovely traits I was talking about stem right from me. I kid you not when I say she has thrown her little body on the floor, leaned over with face in the ground, and screamed and kicked her feet when I have removed her from something she shouldn’t be playing with. It was an impressive fit for a 10 month old, though I’m pretty sure I could’ve given her a run for her money at 10 months. What say you, Mom?! Abi Kate has never seen me do that (Whew! Thank the Lord, huh?!). It isn’t a learned behavior. It is her response to not receiving what she wants. A sin nature. Even though I don’t act on it in that manner, that’s the way I feel now as an adult when things aren’t going well. It’s the way I feel when the Lord disciplines me. And much like she just has to tread along the edge of things she knows she shouldn’t do, I often find myself in the same situation spiritually. For me, this usually manifests itself in thoughts and attitudes which then overflow into my conversation. Even when I know that dwelling on a situation where I feel wronged or upset will only fuel the fire for me, I do it anyway because I feel entitled. Entitled to “getting it off my chest” and speaking my mind. That’s not to say I should never vent. There’s definitely a time for that. But in certain times or circumstances, I know when it’s best for me to claim my inadequacies in dealing with the situation in a Godly manner and ask for help. Too often, I don’t do that. I just have to scrape the edge, which leads to a cascade and gives birth to full blown sin instead of just temptation. Sin is such a slippery slope. I wonder how the Lord looks at me, as He watches me wrestle with choices the way I watch my daughter… when I place myself in a situation that easily leads to sin instead of running from it, running for my life, for my soul- be it physical, mental, or emotional.
We long for Abi Kate to desire the things of the Lord. There is so much fullness & hope in this life because of the cross. Tommy & I have experienced this hope and the mercy that was willingly offered at the hand of our Creator. This makes the wait for her salvation a little harder I think. As I mentioned before, I do believe Christ shows much grace & mercy to young children who haven’t reached an accountable age of realization. It is His nature. But sometimes I still get antsy at the thought of her responsibility. I can make a lot of decisions for her- but not this one, not salvation. It helps to know that He is the lover of her soul, that His love reaches levels of extravagance for her that I couldn’t even begin to dream up; that He pursues her, even now when she’s too young to comprehend that. It is humbling to me to think from a new perspective-- that the cross wasn’t just for me and my sin, but for my child’s as well. That He extends forgiveness coupled with a reward in exchange for our destitution. I pray that we are able to offer her that reality and truth in the words we say and mostly in the lives we live. That she would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love Christ” for her (Ephesians 3:18),that her mind and heart would understand and fully comprehend, and that we would know the right ways to guide her-- this is my desire. There is sweet freedom in the blood of Jesus.
As we evolve in our parenthood and reach new stages, like discipline, that we haven’t encountered before, we realize more and more of our great need for Christ to be ever present in our lives, in every moment and every situation. I hope that we are moldable and attentive to the leadership of the Spirit, that we would help lead our daughter to the ”way everlasting.”