I can remember times when I’ve studied the Fruit of the Spirit and have asked God to help me grow in them. Dangerous prayers. I actually went and asked Him to help me be more patient.
He gave me a two year old.
I am convinced that Charles Dickens must have had a two year old in mind when he penned, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” I daily find myself hilariously laughing, wanting to cry in frustration, needing to count to ten to collect myself, and uproariously laughing again. And that’s just when I’m trying to help Gabby get dressed.
While I love the learning, discovery, sweetness, and some of the funniest one-liners that I’ve ever heard, there are definitely aspects of two-yeardom that I could do without. Oddly, sometimes the parts that I love and hate are actually the same thing. I call it the paradox of the two year old.
For instance . . . newfound independence.
If I had to sum up this season in three words, it would be, “I do it.” Just about everything in our day ends up with this emphatic statement from eating food, to getting buckled in the car, and most dramatically, getting dressed. And although there was a time not too long ago when I longed for the day when Gabby could do these things on her own, I’m finding that this season is not the most efficient alternative.
After several weeks of practice with a newborn, I could get us both ready for the day in a flat 15 minutes. It could take 15 minutes for Gabby to put on a sock. A few days actually took over an hour to get her dressed, as attempts with each garment inevitably were scattered with frustrated fits of rage (Gabby, not me . . . usually). And although I could easily help her get dressed, it was made incredibly clear that my assistance was not desired.
After a few days of this routine, when we were both feeling particularly frustrated, I had this thought occur to me. “Maybe the point of this season is not actually getting dressed?”
I could focus on teaching Gabby the art of getting her arms in her sleeves and putting on her pants before her shoes, and I certainly could pick out cute, matching outfits, and get her dressed in 5 minutes on my own. At the end of the day, though, at best, she’s learned something that could be taught to some really smart primates. Maybe instead, I could use the clothes as an opportunity to talk about perseverance, asking for help, and how to handle frustration.
In a moment of divine reframing, the Holy Spirit gave me a glimpse of the Father’s heart, and His incredible kindness, goodness, and yes, patience, in helping me learn what must be some of the simplest tasks for His infinite power. I thought about my own “two-year old tantrums” that I fall prey to all too often.
I try and lead a Children’s Ministry for our church plant.
I try and adjust to a new city, culture, and friends.
I try to help my daughter get dressed.
When I try and do these things on my own, out of my own power and will, it’s only a matter of time before I find myself in tears, face down on the floor, banging my arms in frustration at my seemingly impossible task (or at least figuratively . . . usually). And my Heavenly Father so gently offers brilliant coaching, endless encouragement, and the most impeccable help the moment I ask Him for it.
He teaches me vision in the midst of weekly lesson plan preparation.
He teaches me how to find rest in the midst of a strange, new land.
He teaches me how to love my daughter the way He loves her.
And then, in a similar fashion to mine and Gabby’s post-dressed celebration, He dances, jumps up and down, and rejoices with even my mismatched, inside-out, backwards accomplishments. He knows that my growth in these seasons will go far beyond children’s ministry strategies and parallel parking expertise, just as I know that Gabby will come out of her season with far more than an ability to fix her sleeves and develop a better sense of fashion.
I was awoken this morning by a little girl running into my room, fully dressed in a matching outfit, proudly telling me how she got ready for the day all by herself. The paradox has turned, and I rejoice in the independence. And it gives me hope that maybe one day soon, I’ll master the art of newfound dependence, leaning on my Daddy to help me with even the most simple tasks, and learning to say, “You and I do it,” every step along the way.