Monday, October 10, 2005

Potty Training and Grace -- Messy Lessons

My daughter Samantha is almost three years old now, and the past week has been a mostly-successful effort in potty training. She hasn't worn a diaper during daylight hours in several days, so my wife and I are very pleased. For almost four months now we've had two kids in diapers, and we're very ready to drop that back down to one.

But here's the thing. Every time Samantha has an accident, it's a total freakout. She screams, she cries, she absolutely loses control and gets beside herself with panic and frustration. We try to console her, but she's gone, in a world all to herself and far beyond the sound of our voices.

What she doesn't understand is that this is all part of the process! We knew she would have accidents -- all kids do. Unfortunately, what could have been a quick accident with a 30-second cleanup turns into a 30-minute exercise of consoling a distraught toddler. Why can't she just get over her mistake and move on with the day? Doesn't she realize that not only are we okay with the occasional mess, but we actually expected her to do this?

Then I thought about my relationship with God as Father, and me as the child. My life is a neverending training ground, and often I'm going to mess up. And often my mental image of God during these times is of a sinister old man, shaking his finger at me knowingly and ready to send lightning straight down into my cranial vicinity.

There's only one, teeny tiny problem with my mental image of God... it's dead wrong. Not only does He provide me with grace in my weakness, he actually expects me to sin sometimes. How could He not? After all, He's a pretty smart dude, and last time I checked, my odds of living even one sin-free day are pretty low. I'm approximately 0-for-5000 in living a sinless day since my teen years. So yeah, God expects me to mess up now and then; that's a given.

What I forget, though, is the importance of my response to sin. I have several choices:
1) Ignore it
2) Blame someone else
3) Recognize it, ask for forgiveness, and move on with God's work
4) Wallow in guilt, beat myself up, and basically lose dozens of opportunities to serve God because I'm too busy in my egocentric view that God is shocked by my imperfection.

Samantha's been choosing #4 quite a bit during potty training, and I found myself asking, "where did she get that???"

Don't you hate it when you ask a question like that, and God taps you on the shoulder, clears his throat, and raises an eyebrow at you?

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