Devotion for the Week...
Aiden will be 12 in May, so over the last almost 12 years I have spent a lot of time with small children. There have been my own three boys, of course, but also the kids belonging to my friends and the kids I babysit. While the kids have all had their own distinct personalities, there have been some obvious similarities.
1. They all throw fits when they can't have something. Have you ever taken something from a child because they're not allowed to have it? Their little fingers grip so tight you have to pry them off the item in question, and once you take it away they howl as if you actually cut off their fingers.
2. They all take what they want, when they want it. Their sibling has a truck they want? No problem. They'll just snatch it and start playing with it. How many times as parents (or babysitters) do we take a toy from the snatcher and hand it back to the child who had it first?
3. They all head straight for the things they know they're not allowed to have. Whether it's an electrical cord, an older sibling's ipod or a kitchen cupboard, they want nothing more than what has been forbidden. As soon as they think the adult in the room is distracted they make a beeline for it. You can tell they know it's wrong by how they react when they see you coming. They either drop it and try to look innocent or they grab on tighter as if daring you to take it away (see point #1).
4. They all push limits, testing how far they're allowed to go before they actually get into trouble. If you say 'no' to something, but then allow them to do it with no consequences, you can be sure they'll do it again, and they'll push a little farther next time.
5. They all hate to clean up their messes. Spreading toys and books all over the floor is fun. Picking up those same things to put them away is awful, capable of inducing whining, complaining and crying.
Gradually, with plenty of work on the parent's part, these traits are replaced by things like self-control, sharing, patience and responsibility. I find it interesting, though, that toddlers reveal our true nature as humans. As adults, we like to believe that we are good people and, for the most part, we are good people. But we're still people who have the nature of those toddlers, even if we have been trained to behave in a more civilized manner.
The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and looking at toddlers we see that this is true. No matter how sweet a child may be, there are always times when selfishness or disobedience shows up. A child has to be taught to share, to follow rules, to consider how their actions affect others.
Even when we are grown, there are times when those less-than-desirable traits show up. Maybe we get angry with God because we aren't getting what we pray for or maybe we're pushing the limits, testing how far we can go before God disciplines us, or avoiding an apology we know we need to make to clean up the mess we made with our words or actions. Whatever the case may be, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our inner toddler is not completely grown up.
I love the book of Romans. It's a tough book to understand, but there is so much food for thought in there that the effort is worth it. We might be tempted to think the apostle Paul had it all together, that he was perfect in his thoughts, words and actions. After all, he wrote a big chunk of the New Testament and God uses his writing to help us learn how to live a godly life. But Paul struggled too. "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). Can you relate? I know I can.
Though we work hard to live godly lives, there is no doubt that we are working against what our human nature wants. Our human nature is like a toddler - selfish, demanding, wanting to explore as far into the forbidden as possible. In short, sinful and in need of Jesus.