Having little children in a house puts everyone on red-alert every minute. And when they can be heard playing just out of sight but then grow quiet, adults kick into emergency mode.
Tonight as our eight month old twins were being bathed, two year old Nicholas was happily chattering amongst the toys a short distance from three adults. It hadn’t dawned on us he’d grown quiet until I heard Katy’s voice shouting. “Nicholas! No no no! You can’t have that!”
She flew toward the kitchen to retrieve whatever it was, and I rounded the cabinets in my snow boots, sliding across the floor as if it were a skating pond. As we arrived on the scene, we found Nicholas holding a spray can of cooking oil, pressing the button and christening the entire kitchen. Oil dripped down his forearms and into his sleeves. He’d sprayed out most of a full can.
Katy grabbed it, and Nicholas began rubbing his cheeks with his greasy hands saying, “Cream!” But none of us had told him the can was off limits, so he hadn’t done anything wrong.
She grabbed Nicholas and headed for the bathtub while I dealt with the floor. Jack came around the corner and went sailing on the slippery surface, not once but twice, wondering why his legs no longer worked.
In the end, damages were insignificant, but this is a fitting example of why young mommies and daddies are often worn weary by their job. Parenting is ongoing work that’s open-ended, long-term. The finishing line can’t be seen during the most difficult years, and even at night a break is never guaranteed.
God probably organized parenting in this way to give us a glimpse of our child-to-parent relationship with him. He’s “on our case” continually, just as we are on our children, and has no objections to the task being ongoing, open-ended and long-term. As a matter of fact, he views that as beneficial, since most of us need all the time we can get.
Back in the 1970’s there was a movement in Christian circles: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” I had a button that said, PBP.GIFWMY, and a book came out with that same title. Although the fad passed, the concept is still true. God will never give up on us. When we fail, he doesn’t get frustrated but continues to encourage and nudge us forward.
These divine parenting principles work well in earthly parenting, too. Katy and Hans will never give up on teaching Nicholas, because they know his personal growth is a long-term project. Maturity doesn’t come in a day, and because they love him passionately, they’ll continue to clean up his messes and tell him “no” or “yes” thousands of times over the years.
But Nicholas is secure in their love, and when he had to surrender the spray oil tonight, he did it knowing Katy’s disapproval didn’t mean she loved him any less.
A child senses he is a work in progress, and as God parents us, we should sense it, too.
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)