Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The time out chair sits in our front room: an old and tacked-leather wingback from one of the Nordstrom shoe departments my husband’s father managed years ago. Strong and water proof (very important during the potty training years), it won’t buckle or tip because a screaming toddle decides to jump up and down on it in defiance.
Sam is that toddler right now. We call him “Bam-Sam” because he hits. A lot. He screams even more than he hits, in a pitch so high he could curdle cheese. He refuses to potty train one day, then takes himself to the potty the next. Whatever word you may label him: out of control, unruly, or brutish (ask his cousin Kye) . . . I label him 2.
Abraham’s 2 nearly broke me. I took his tantrums to heart, as if his screaming and kicking fits every single time I took him to the park were aimed at me. I cried daily, leaving church and parks and Target with a screaming screamerton strapped in behind me, flailing in his car seat. I read every book on toddler behavior and discipline, tried rearranging his schedule and had the doctor test him for allergies and diabetes.
Then, one day, he turned three. Magically, he mellowed. He started to believe me every time we left a fun place that we would, indeed, have fun again. He started to believe that when I said “no,” or “come,” or “you need to go to the potty,” that I meant it and that the same consequences would occur if he didn’t obey time and time again. It was as if he accepted the yoke of being my child, and all that entailed.
This morning, Sam sat in the time out chair. Actually, he stood in the time out chair throwing a fit to bring down a kingdom. I told him several times, “If you want out of time out, you need to sit down, take a deep breath, fold your hands, and be quiet.” After throwing his fair share of fit, he sat down sideways and laced his chubby little hands together on the arm of the chair. He took his deep breaths, his little bare legs (we are endlessly potty training) dangling off the side, and looked up at me. He repeated after me, “Children, obey [my] pawents in the Lode for this is wight; Fesians 6:1.” And he was kissed and loved and I was covered in slobber and tiny tears and off he went to play trains again.
But, as I sat listening to my two-year old banshee holler, I couldn’t help think of how I must sound to God. Just like my love and discipline of Sam, that is for his own good, so is God’s love and discipline of me. The things He asks of me are always for my best, my ultimate success. And yet, like Sam, who has no idea why it matters if he obeys his mother, I often throw a good fit when it comes to submitting to God’s will for my life . . . even if it’s the best good for my life.
Phillip Keller writes about his insubordinate sheep in A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23. He reports that no matter how good the pasturage and care, sometimes his sheep would still jump the fence and go exploring. He nick-named his worst offender “Mrs. Gadabout”. She not only jumped the fences and risked her own life, she also led other sheep into dangerous, unsanctioned lands. Because of her refusal to submit, Keller eventually had to butcher Mrs. Gadabout.
I think of the areas I struggle to submit my will and actions to God. I think about all the time I know I have to obey a commandment I’d rather take for a suggestion, just standing up in that time out chair screaming and hollering like it’s going to make a difference. I wonder about how much time I waste trying to find a way out of God’s provision into some dangerous, unprepared place just because I don’t want to get down to the dirty of giving up my will.
To be honest, that’s like, well, every day for me. But I have lived long enough to know one thing, the one thing Abraham figured out and Mrs. Gadabout certainly did not: that in the will of God is the easiest place to be. It’s swimming in the wake of the boat instead of in the chop. It’s the wind at your back instead of buckled down face blistering climb. And even though it hurts to swim toward the wake, kneel and ask forgiveness, it only hurts in the turning around. Once you’re turned, it’s so much easier.
Are you in the chop and wondering why it’s so dang hard? Ask God with me to examine your heart, and see if there are areas you need to submit to Him. If you need a reminder of what He’s expecting of you, the Ten Commandments are a great place to start. I have a hard time getting through a day without needing forgiveness in one area or another.
When our life stops being about what we want and starts being about what our Shepherd would have us do (love Him and love others Mark 12:28-30), when it stops being about jumping the fence and starts being about how grateful we are for the pasture provided (Psalm 23), when we stop bucking and start enjoying the protection and sustenance of our Father (Psalm 91), we’re submitting.
Submit. It still makes me want to gag a little. All that giving up of stuff, all that kneeling low so that He can be lifted high. Ugh. It’s good theology, but it’s hard practice. And yet, the more I pray, “I want what You want. I want what You want. Let me see what You see, value what You value, think what You think,” the more I see the green of the grass, hear the gurgling brook, feel my Shepherd’s gentle voice guiding me towards nourishment and a soft place to sleep. The more I feel the Shepherd’s constant, sustaining, perfect love, the more I forget to resent the fence.
God bless you all.
One Mrs. Gadabout,