Toddlers, Toilets, and Freedom in Christ

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I heard giggles, not the “I’m-playing-sweetly-with-my-toys” giggles, the other kind—slightly mischievous and far too happy to trust. When I entered the room to investigate, I didn’t even have to speak before his hands flung out of the toilet, he put his head down, and he ran as fast as he could away from me.

My typical reaction would be to scold him and make him walk back to the bathroom to clean up his mess and wash his hands. (We have our toilet-water cleaning routine down to a science because mom-brain is real and this lady can’t remember to close the bathroom door.) However, today was different because the Holy Spirit used that moment to teach me.

As he ran, I saw myself in him—ashamed, scared, knowing I’d done wrong and desperate to escape the consequences or judgment. I didn’t want to think about that though; that wild child needed some discipline. However, I couldn’t muster up a yell because God stopped me and said to my heart “have mercy.”

He’s done this 1000 times and knows it’s wrong, but I’m supposed to have mercy? Then, it hit me. I am him. I am my son and I run from God when I know I’ve done wrong many, many times. So yes, I should show mercy, because I am the best example of Christ that my son has. Show mercy, because God has shown mercy to me.

I took a deep breath. Instead of giving him the wrath of a tired mom, I scooped him up and calmly told him we needed to clean up our mess and wash our hands. I explained how there are consequences to our actions (in toddler verbiage of course) and told him not to do it again. This time as he walked away, it was with a smile on his face. There was freedom and peace. He had gotten a hug and a kiss and he knew he was loved. I choked up, because I wanted to feel that freedom too.

Guilt, regret, shame—I know them all too well. God says perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), but I spent most of my life fearing His judgement because I didn’t understand what perfect love meant. It didn’t matter what I did—passed judgment, gossiped, lied—you name it, I was scared that each sin was one too many and certainly I would experience God’s wrath. And like my toddler, with each sin, I would lower my head and run.

This isn’t a new concept, this running and hiding stuff. It’s existed since Adam and Eve committed the very first sin. But even then, even before Christ’s sacrifice, our wonderful God revealed His merciful side. There were consequences, but mercy and grace were at the core. For some reason though, I couldn’t believe grace applied to me too. You would think that the resurrection of Christ, the ultimate sacrifice and door to freedom, would give me even more reason to trust in His mercy, but I didn’t—until I had my son, the same son God used to teach me today.

When I had my son, Jesse, I finally understood the “perfect love” that God has for us. I began to understand sacrifice and forgiveness. In those early days of my son’s life, many years of guilt and shame were finally lifted off my shoulders as I began to understand why Jesus would be willing to lay down His life for me. Lately though, I have forgotten that freedom and returned to my unhealthy, fearful ways. Lately, I’ve been scared of God and scared of judgement and condemnation again. (I know that the Bible says there is no condemnation in Christ, but I’m an anxious woman with intrusive thoughts that often tell me otherwise.)

Praise the Lord for toddlers and toilet water though! Because, today I was reminded of freedom in Christ! Today, I can be like my son and choose to walk away from encounters with my merciful Father with a smile on my face. No more time needs to be spent in fear of Him. What a great reminder this morning of God’s mercy; and what a great way to shape me into a more grace-filled mom.

So even though I told my son not to play in the toilet again, next time the temptation of the pearly bowl becomes too much to handle and he dips his little hands into the water, I’ll look at him with merciful eyes. I’ll remember today. I’ll remember God’s mercy. And by showing him grace, I’ll be reminded that I too am granted that same gift by my Heavenly Father. My son and I both can then walk away from the situation with a smile, confident we’ve been forgiven, and confident we are loved.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” –Hebrews 4:16