Last Thursday, we arrived with a few minutes to spare. My mom friend leaned over to me and said, "Never have I prayed so much for a toddler sports class!" That made two of us. (If you haven't read about last Thursday, click here to get up to speed.)
I was feeling a tad nervous, like it was a high stakes morning. Like this might be the morning that steers the rest of the toddler years. She didn't know how nervous I was. Or maybe she did. She's smart like that.
The moment arrived. Miss Bobbi opened the door and said, "Who's ready to play?" All but one preschooler yelled, "ME!"
I looked at my mini me, who took a step forward and then, for a split second, looked like she might be changing her mind. All I could think was, NOOOOOOOO!!
Then her little friend reached towards her and said "You can hold my hand if you want." She gladly accepted and together they skipped into class and didn't look back.
I plopped into my chair and breathed a big sigh of relief. My mom friend and I may have exchanged high-fives. A few other moms cast "we're happy for you" looks in my direction.
In life, there are fleeting moments and defining ones. This one felt defining.
I have wrestled with the tension with obedience and the heart. Is obedience the goal? What if the heart isn't in it? Do I want right behavior if the heart is not in it?
The Bible says, if we love God, we will obey Him (John 14:23). From experience, I know there is plenty I obeyed without fully understanding the consequences, good or bad, simply out of fear/trust of my parents. My behavior preceded the understanding of my heart in most areas. Truth existed to me in black and white terms because I never examined the heart behind God's commands. I spent plenty of my earlier years thinking God was more of a, "Because I said so" than "I don't want you to get hurt."
My wrestling match isn't over but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts:
Obedience needs priming: I've realized that my girl isn't big on surprises that don't come coated in sugar or wrapping paper. If there is something approaching that is going to require cooperation on her part, it is best to know as many details ahead of time. Little people are mini big people. As adults we often don't like change or surprises equally as much but we have more socially acceptable ways of dealing with this than screaming or outwardly digging our heels in, (maybe). If there's a crossroads I know we will be approaching, I talk about it as much as possible ahead of time.
Spiritual life is the same. It is great to know what decisions or temptations the near future may hold so I can ask God to prepare a "yes Lord" in my Spirit. If I wait until the crossroads to weigh decisions, surprise, obedience can be more difficult. (Not that deciding ahead of time makes it easy, but it can simplify.)
Cross the bridges before you get to them. It can be much more difficult to obey God's rules, and parents in moments of temptation if we have not resolved (or been prepped) to follow ahead of time.
Aim for a matter of the heart rather than only a matter of the will: All week we talked about Thursday. On Thursday we are going to Sporting Fun. On Thursday, we don't have fussing and crying. On Thursday, we will cooperate. On Thursday, you're going to have so much fun playing with your friends. On Thursday, you will stretch like a pizza and get a smiley sticker at the end of your class. On Thursday, we aren't going to miss out. On Thursday, you're going to get exercise. I wonder what games you'll get to play on Thursday? By the end of the week, I'm sure she was thinking... I GET it. Can we please talk about something else?
If the conversation had simply gone something like, "ON THURSDAY YOU WILL GO TO YOUR SPORTS CLASS. END OF DISCUSSION!", I may have won the battle of wills, but without her understanding my heart, I don't know that I could've counted it as a win. It's not realistic or possible to explain the reasoning behind every request/command (both from earthly and spiritual parent to child), but I do know that when something makes sense to her (and me), the chances of cooperation increase. Make it make sense if and when possible which brings me to my next point.
Trust and Obey: My hope and prayer is that my children trust my love for them. I often remind my sweet girl, "Mommy loves you and wants what is best for you." My hope is that as this happens, even when she doesn't understand the why behind my what, she will trust my love and choose to obey. I hope that when I tell the little man not to run into the street, he also hearts, it's not safe and doesn't just think, she's infringing on my freedom.
Scripture doesn't say, "If you love me, you will understand why I command what I command and thus you will eventually obey me." I think He knows we need to trust Him which is why He goes to such great lengths to demonstrate His love. Trust comes easier in a loving relationship. There is so much we will never comprehend in our limited human understanding and need to take His word for.
It always helps to have a friend: I do believe that she wanted to and planned to go into class that day but for whatever reason, she hesitated. When her little friend offered her hand, it gave her the boost of courage she needed. I'm not all that different. I want to be the kind of person who follows God no matter how narrow the path, but honestly, I have a much easier time when someone is keeping me company and infusing me with the courage that I need to take the next step. God often works through His people!
As I have "grown up", I've seen these own truths at work in my heart. There have been many times over recent seasons of my life that God was preparing my heart for a road I would need to walk and obedience. He knows I can only handle so much surprise. He's revealed so much of His heart behind His commands that has convinced me of His compassion for us. And when all else fails, I have to trust Him and obey. But you know, it never hurts to have a friend and some encouragement along the way.
I received a record number of texts asking the exact same question last Thursday, after 11:00 AM. So... how did it go!!??
It stuck. For now. Mommy for the win. Just kidding... Clearly, it's much bigger than that!