Training Day

August 14, 2012

Abruptly, the stillness of the morning is broken by a series of thumps from upstairs. I gulp the rest of my coffee, and bound upstairs.

Elise is awake, and it’s Potty Training, Day 1.

My oldest daughter is 2½ and very strong-willed and independent. She’s also an energetic monkey who thinks nothing of trying to climb the highest window sills, reach for the light fixtures above my countertops or run across the dining room table. Seriously. Most days I’m thankful to simply keep her alive. My goal right now is to make it to her third birthday, and from there we’ll see.

We’ve been potty training in our house this past week. You wouldn’t think that would be area of spiritual learning – except for those frustrated, “Lord, get me outta here!” kind of prayers – but I’ve been reflecting more and more on how something like this is the perfect illustration of God’s love for us.
More significantly, it’s a situation that shows how we run from God and how, in his great love for us, he continues to pursue us.
If I’m sounding crazy, bear with me for a minute, and consider this: Until we started potty training Elise, she was completely fine with remaining in her own filth. Sure, she wasn’t always the most comfortable – why else would she run and hide to finish her business? – but overall, she was ok. Sure she may have had soggy bottoms and droopy drawers, but hey, circumstances being what they were, that lifestyle was familiar. So to wake up one morning and be told that she has to stop wearing diapers, make frequent trips to the bathroom and be intentional about that area of her life is obviously what constitutes as a major life change, at least for a toddler.
Isn’t it true for most of us that, like Elise, unless and until we come to know the Lord, we are more than ok with remaining in our own filth? Our lives might not be the best, but hey, circumstances being what they are, we’re unwilling to leave what’s familiar to us. We’re comfortable, set in our ways and, if someone attempts to force us to change, we will probably resist.

Like Elise, we employ tactics to avoid a God-filled, Christ-centered life:
-          Avoidance. As a parent, you worry the most when your child is quiet, right? Unless they have magically fallen asleep while watching Dora, it’s more likely that they’re spilling water in the bathroom, smearing soap on the mirror or decorating the wood floor with Barbie stickers.

-          Hiding. Elise: If I can’t see you, you can’t see me. Nor can you hear my giggles or my super-loud breathing. Wrong. It’s the same with us and God: If I pretend like God isn’t there or doesn’t exist, he has no bearing on my life. Also wrong. If God loves you enough to keep track of the number of hairs on your head – and trust me, he does – than how foolish are we to think that we can get him to overlook us?

-          Messes. Ugh. If you’ve ever potty trained a child, you know that this is part and parcel of the job. Doesn’t it seem likely that, as our loving parent, God understood what he was signing up for, too? As a father, God knows that we may stumble into, wallow within, or sink into the mire of our own messes, and he’s willing to lovingly come in, help us to clean up, and show us a better way to live.

Like Elise, my Potty Training Trainee, humanity is messy. We make mistakes; we’re selfish. But as that little towhead bounces her way over to me, and I snuggle her in, kiss her flushed cheeks and breathe deeply of fresh air and little girl sweat, I know there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. If I feel that way, how much more must God feel that way towards us? Even when we continue to battle him, make messes and generally act like the children we still are, he pulls us in close, draws us into his presence and surrounds us with his love.

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