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Trust Me Twos

Her sweet face erupts in a flash of anger, and she whirls around to face me, her blonde hair flying. Her eyes are narrow, her cheeks are flushed red, and her mouth is set. She flings an arm in my direction as a warning. I’ll hit you, she says with her eyes. I’m mad at you and I don’t have to do what you say and I will hit you. Her blue eyes are icy with stubbornness and no longer reflect the squinty smile she typically wears.

“No, ma’am,” I said firmly.  “You may not act that way towards me.”

“NO!” she screamed, flinging her arm towards me again. She turned and ran away into her room, flinging herself onto her bed in a fit of ugly, streaming tears.

This scene had happened several times that day. “She” in this story is my daughter. She’s two years old.

I bit my lip and sighed, frustrated to my core. I can’t count how many times I have to repeat simple lessons to her, backed up with discipline. We share. We don’t throw toys. We don’t throw tantrums at the store. We don’t disobey mommy and daddy. We don’t grab toys from other children. We don’t hit mommy and daddy. We don’t push/hit/shove/bite/etc.

By the thousandth time, I begin to feel a tingling of fear that she’ll never learn. I’m exhausted from constantly correcting her behavior, and I’m willing to bet all the money in the bank that nothing I am doing will work. I’m frustrated, sad, and feeling a little out of my league. I’m raising a little monster and there’s no turning back now.

So I did what I always do when I feel helpless. I call my mom.

“Oh, she won’t learn for years!” my mom said nonchalantly, almost cheerfully, in the voice of a woman who is thinking, God, I’m so glad I’m past this phase of parenting! “You just keep reminding her the appropriate way to act and you keep disciplining her, and she will learn. Just hang in there.”

That was not as encouraging as I had hoped, but it did remind me of something.

It reminded me that the ugly behavior I see in my daughter is probably ugly because I see it in myself. Stubbornness. Selfishness. Anger. Pride.

I wondered if God feels the same frustration with me as I feel with my daughter. I imagine over the course of my life…nearly 30 years…that my complaining and crying out to Him and selfish behavior might get a tad old:

“But God, I can’t see where this is going. I don’t see the point. This is stupid.”

Maybe not a little monster but definitely a stinker.

Trust me, God says.

“God why is this happening to me? It’s so painful!”

Trust me, God says.

“God, why aren’t things going the way I want? Do you even care?”

Trust me, God says.

“God, I feel alone and scared. Nobody cares about me. Where are you?”

Trust me, God says.

“God, I don’t think I have what I need to face this trial. I can’t do this.”

Trust me, God says.

“God, I am pretty sure this is disobedient, but it’s not that big of a deal, right?”

Trust me, God says.

The lessons I find myself repeating to my daughter are often ones I need to hear myself. I also need to remember that every day and every correction matters. Heidi needs to be gently and firmly corrected so that she understands how to live life to the fullest and how to love others.  That’s where real life begins. Not only do I need her to trust me that it’s all for her own good, I need to trust myself that my consistency will one day pay off.

After disciplining Heidi for the umpteenth time that day, I snuck into her room as she was crying on her bed. It had been a rough day for the both of us…one thing after another, and a day where she hadn’t been herself.  I decided to start from scratch and see how she was doing.

I rubbed her back.

“Sweetie, are you just tired?” I asked her quietly.

She lifted her head and sputtered out between sobs, “Yes!”

I folded her into my arms, wiped her tears with her blanket, and rocked her for a long time. Her head sat heavy on my shoulder, and her hand sweetly patted my back, a silent thank you for understanding. Her entire body was limp, fitting right into mine, and her eyelids slowly closed. I leaned back against the wall and soaked up the feeling of my big girl…now half my size nearly…draped across me like a blanket, breathing steadily.

Sometimes, when we’re overcome with bitterness, resentment, selfishness, and anger, it’s because we’re simply tired of fighting for the good. We’re tired of trying. We’re tired of nobody noticing. We’re tired of looking for the good when we’re overcome with the bad. We start depending on our own strength.

I picture God wanting to hold us close, just like I did with Heidi, and wrap us up in the promise that He loves us and wants to help us live good lives.  He doesn’t seek perfection. He seeks our hearts, and He’s constantly reminding us with His gifts that He’s near. The reason He tells me to be thankful, even on my worst days, is because it changes my heart and gives me joy. He may not fix things for me right then and there, but He gives me what I need in the moment, and I need to trust that is enough.

We forget that God’s grace is what gets us through…not our good works, not our hours of prayer, not our righteous faces that cover bitter hearts like whitewashed tombs.  We bring our burdens and trials to Him, and He makes them into a beautiful story in a way only He can. He makes them a story that comforts others and that shapes us into people of compassion, character, kindness, empathy, and love.

The next time I’m fed up with Heidi and I feel like parenting is a wash, I’ll remember that all of it matters.  I will remind myself to have the patience, the grace, and the long-suffering love that God has with me. Her daddy and I were chosen to walk with her through this life…helping her when she stumbles, correcting her when she’s wrong, forgiving her when she’s made a mistake, and loving her regardless of all of it.

Just like God did with me. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know where I’d be without it.

Believe steadfastly in Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. Faith is absolute trust in God – trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us. -Oswald Chambers

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