Charlotte Mason wisely wrote, “I think a mother gets to understand many things about the dealings of God that are not plain to others.” (Formation of Character, page unknown because I am reading it on an e-reader????). Pretty good for someone who never had her own children. In fact, had she had a brood of unruly toddlers at home, perhaps she never would have gotten around to writing down such a nice-sounding, and true, thought.
When I committed to “blogging” “regularly” about a year ago (Can someone please tell me, what is a “blog” and who defines “regularly”?), one of the forces pushing me from behind was the insight gained during an intense season of child-bearing, -rearing, and -steering. At the time, I had under my care 2, 4, sometimes 6 children and I lived for months inside many a spiritual metaphor, all of it revealing more of how much God must love someone as rotten as even me.
It’s a shame I was too tired to write most of it down.
But as of late, I have turned the page into a new season where just my two younglings remain, Toddler and Tiddler, for lack of better names. My Toddler has recently eclipsed the three year mark, propelling him onward into the much welcomed independent-play, imaginative-storytelling, and loving-my-mom-after-those-terrible-twos stage; my Tiddler, at nearly 17 months, however, is a terrorist.
Now, I have adored this baby since he was born. Something about his face, his features suspiciously similar to my own perhaps, has drawn my eyes since the moment he floated to the top of that birthing tub and into my arms covered in disgusting-ness. I loved my older son immediately with an everlasting love, too — but something about Thing Two unraveled my heart, melted my parenting rationale into a sticky pool in the back corner of my mind (kind of like that leaking jelly container currently lurking in the back of the refrigerator….).
And maybe this is that tenderness of God’s humor, that He would balance my affections for this child with what will undoubtedly be a life-long war of wills. Well, 18 years of combat, at least. Although from what my mom says, it don’t end there these days.
Just to paint the picture, this baby is in the 3rd percentile in both height and weight; he is small. Additionally, he is cute. And he knows it. Most of the compliments I receive when out in public are directed toward his cheekiness, (both his ridiculously adorable cheeks as well as his almost-sarcastic humor that has made many an old lady in the church aisles croon). People love him: the mail woman, the doctor, the big kids at church and library, the cashiers at Target. They all know him as, “Mr.” — almost as if they have assumed he has had authority over me from the get-go.
He does, by the way, have the authority.
Because now as we begin the road of discipline, this baby has cornered me: not only has he sensed my panic in not knowing what do to or say when he blatantly acts out (if I just wait one minute ’til she turns half-way around … yep, now! SLAP. Nice one! Got that bowl of yogurt right on brother’s face. Sucker! Oh no, here she comes. She looks mad. I forget, did she tell me not to do that? Oh well. RUN!!!!! ha ha ha…..), but I think it was his plan all along to get me to spend ALL. MY. FREE. TIME. (which isn’t much, since the kids aren’t napping together anymore) reading parenting books and therefore always being one step behind him.
For my second child. Really?
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1
I really could use some free wine…
Come to think of it, milk’s not cheap either.
I hate to admit that up until recently, this has been one of those “theoretical” verses for me. Yeah, yeah, I know grace is “free.” But what does that mean to someone like me who can always finagle a way to get what I am looking for?
If I can’t afford it, I make it myself or I save for it or I compromise in the budget and get it anyway. Worst case scenario, we need it now so we put it on the credit card and pay it off over a couple of months. Even on a very tight income, I do not understand what this verse is getting at.
And praise be to God for that, He has shown mercy on my family and I trust that he has rigged our circumstances — financial and otherwise — perfectly to draw us unto Himself.
But I have come to verses like this and all I can say is, yes, I see how that would be nice if I really had no money. And in terms of my spiritual poverty, my separation from God but for the blood of Jesus, I do see this as true … But now that I am rich in the Son, I guess I have — or, had — forgotten what this was like, to have nothing, to come with nothing.
Until recently, that is.
Who am I, that a 17 month old soul, utterly ignorant to the depth of his very presence, would draw me to my knees in front of a smoldering fire one chilly morning, hands in my disheveled hair, pajama bottoms covered in ash from the spilled ash bucket (it wasn’t me who spilled it), choking sobs, angry, desolate. Poor?
It seems as though this unraveling string of my heart, this thing my boy has grabbed and ran away with, it has come to the end of the spool and I have no strength left to wind it back up, to reel him in. I don’t even know how.
Does this sound overly dramatic? It may be, but I am not a dramatic person and I can tell you that I literally have nothing left inside of me to love this child. But for the grace of God, I wake up in the morning and keep him alive, changed, fed, napped (sometimes), and relatively happy. But when tempers and wills and stubborn prides rise, I cower to my corner of the kitchen, hiding from the emotions rising within that have power to do real damage, to cause real harm. All because I don’t know what else to do.
I need Jesus. He says, “come to me” to the little children. He loves, and laughs, and invites them up onto His lap which miraculously never ran out of room or was cause for envy. He is patient, kind, and good; He probably had a stash of cookies or bubbles in His tunic pocket. I am not like Him, and I need Him to do this labor of love for me. On my behalf. My nature is not one of sacrificial love. Is yours?
Any pride I might have had in the first three years of raising Thing One — the puffed-up-ness that I can keep a house clean, keep a child well-behaved, maintain a proper schedule, heck, I can even work on the side! This is easy! Why can’t everyone do this???? — it has all been stripped away.
Praise God for that.
Parenting is not easy, and it is not a game. It is not something to “win” at or “be good at.” It is a vocation — we all know Who, and only Who, is in this business of Creating (I know my husband and I had something to do with it, yes, but had I had more power I promise you I would have chosen the adorable looks and the even-temper). I suppose that if I am really going to subscribe to this thing called Sovereignty and this other thing that all is grace, well, then I have to admit that God chose me for this challenge.
And I am poor in family economics. I am buying parenting books (and if you know me you know I don’t buy much of anything), and I am reading them. I am praying in all the ways I know how to beseech this good and gracious God to cut me some slack. I am reading the Bible, looking for clues, searching for parenting advice, knowing it must be in there somewhere. I am desperate for instruction, pining for clarity, aching to gain back what has been lost, trampled on. I wait on the Lord, I wait on deliverance.
I see yet a little more clearly how much more “free” means when you. have. nothing.
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance…Isaiah 55:2
I seek earthly answers, yeah, but my soul knows I’m digging deeper. I let myself be drawn anew into this way of metaphorical living, this relationship I have with a child who doesn’t know yet how to love me back. A child who throws my love away.
God is funny like that.