Monday, April 23, 2007

Exploring Toddlerhood and God's Ways

Little L (13 months) is growing up.  She's exploring, gaining independence, and learning.  She alternates between independent exploration and clinginess.  I know this is normal toddler behavior.  One minute she's climbing the bunk bed ladder  (eek!)  or playing quietly with duplos.  The next moment she's tugging on my skirts, crying to be held.  She needs reassurance and comfort.  After some cuddling and lap time, maybe even some nursing, she is ready to go explore again.  Some weeks she needs extra reassurance and comfort, like now, when she's cutting her first stubborn molars.

As a mother, I have to balance letting her explore with keeping her safe.  I have to balance giving her enough assurances of my love and presence, with not spoiling her too much.  I have to be available to meet her needs, fill up her love tank, keep her safe, and teach her new things.  But I don't want to hold her back too much -- keep her so safe that she doesn't learn new things. 

(Let me clarify.  I am a proponent of sheltering our children from the world's sinfulness -- there is no reason for my 7 year old (or even my 11 yo) to know about all the sin that is out there -- but I don't want to keep my child from learning to walk or climb (safely) because I am keeping her in a play pen or walker.  I don't want to keep my child from learning to ride a bike because I keep her on a tricycle, or refuse to take off her training wheels, even when she's ready.  Balance.  Being attentive to know when my child is ready to grow.)

For example, yesterday our family went swimming.  At first Little L let me hold her out from my body in deep water and she kicked in the water, and enjoyed the floating sensation.  But when we returned to that pool later, she clung to me, afraid.  I don't know what caused the change, but we moved to the baby pool instead.  She still clung to me.  We had to work to coax her away from us.  At first she'd cry anytime we stood her or sat her in the water.  I finally convinced her to sit between my legs in very shallow water, and then Steve convinced her to walk around a bit.  As she gained confidence and began to wade in the water, we had to stay very close to her, catching her as she fell in the water over and over.  She learned that we were there to catch her and grew bolder; so bold that I wanted to hold her back a little.  I tried to take her into shallower water, but she always headed back into the water that came to her waist.  Finally, I convinced her to hold hands with me while she walked.  I could keep her from falling into the water, without keeping her from exploring the water.

As I wrote about Little L and her growing independence, I was thinking how much God is our Spiritual Father.  How He is always there to lovingly care for us, comfort us, reassure us, provide for us, etc.  He leads us in safe paths, if we listen to His guidance.  But unlike Little L who is seeking her independence, I need to seek dependence on Him.  I need to give up my self-reliance and cling to my Heavenly Father.  I am sure there are times I walk away from Him, over-confident in my self-reliance, and He may feel the same lump in His throat that I felt as I watched Little L wobble as she sped through the pool, seeing the coming fall before it even happened.  There may be times that I foolishly climb a bunk bed ladder, and He rushes to stop me.   I know His love and care for me, is greater than my love for my children.

Perhaps I'm over-humanizing God the Father, but it still serves to remind me that He has given me rules and guidance in His Word -- to help me walk in His ways, to keep me safe, and to lead me into relationship with Him.  And just as I want to keep my children safe from harm, to help them learn and grow, I also need to teach them about God's Word and how to walk in His ways.  Even more than teaching Little L and the others how to be safe while they explore and learn, we strive to teach them about God, and we pray that they will give their lives to Him and live for Him.

Deuteronomy 1:31 "and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

Isaiah 49:15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"

Isaiah 66:13  "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

Psalm 103:13  "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;"

2 Corinthians 6:18  "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

Hebrews 12:7  "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?"


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