Thursday, July 14, 2005

My Toddler Teaches Me: Lesson 2

The slogan, "My best thinking got me here," has always kind of thudded for me. I sort of understand the point, but I've never been an idiot. I have lousy judgment and have made really bad decisions, but I'm not entirely lacking in intellectual resources. The slogan always seemed to imply that, since my thinking is flawed, I should stop thinking, rather than improve my thinking so it works for me instead of against me.


My (almost) three-year-old son has helped clarify the point of this slogan for me. He is a very smart boy (in my completely objective opinion!). He is rapidly learning about the world around him, figuring out how things work, observing and making connections.

He loves videos. Lately he has become as interested in playing the videos as he is in watching them. He has figured out that you have to insert the DVD or tape into the player, and press buttons on the players, the TV and remotes to make it play. He has observed Daddy go through the whole process, and he likes to do it himself now.

But there is no way he can do the whole process himself. The DVD will be upside down or coated with peanut butter, he doesn't know which buttons to push, he doesn't understand he has to wait for the disk to load before pressing buttons. It's just too complicated for him to understand completely, not because he's stupid, but because his brain simply isn't equipped to do it. He needs guidance, help, encouragement and teaching. I have to be firm, because he resists help, wants so much to be able to do it himself, to be self-sufficient. On his own, he won't get the results he wants. With help, he gets the results, and he also grows and learns.

And he goes a very good job! It thrills me, gives me delight, fills me with wonder to see his mind grow, to see his confidence and determination, to see how well he does. Obviously, there is no way I would think he's stupid or worthless, get angry with him, or punish him because he can't do it himself. I don't expect him to do it himself, and I'm happy to help him. My bond of love grows every time we play a video together.

I'm a lot like my son. I'm not stupid or worthless, either. I want to be self-sufficient, to do things myself without help. I have an idea of the pieces and processes that make the world work, and I can easily convince myself that I understand it. But I really don't understand it. There is no way I can do the right things, at the right time, in the right order, to make the world around me run properly. I need help to get the results I'm seeking -- I simply am not equipped to do it myself. It's beyond my comprehension, no matter how much I resist help, no matter how confident and determined I am.

But my son is different from me, though, in some important ways, and he teaches me how I should respond. When I help him and correct him, he resists and sometimes is frustrated or impatient, but he yields, watches me, trusts me and learns from me. He doesn't refuse to let go of the DVD; he doesn't run screaming from the room; he doesn't smash the DVD, the TV and DVD player; he doesn't fear that I'm going to yell at him, belittle him or punish him.

I can see how I respond to helping my son: I'm happy to do it, I'm patient with him, I love to guide him, the furthest thing from my mind is to punish him or be angry with him. Helping him is one of the most important purposes in my life, and I'm delighted to do it. And I'm just a deeply flawed man, fumbling my way through life.

God is the one who helps me, sometimes directly but more frequently through people around me. His love is perfect, His patience is infinite. How much greater must be God's delight in watching me trying my best, trying to learn, struggling to do the right thing! How much greater must be God's delight in helping me and guiding me! How deep must be His grief and pain when I refuse to yield, when I run away screaming, when I fear I will be punished, when I refuse to trust Him, when in frustration and impatience I smash the gifts he has given me! How worried He must be when I give up and quit trying if I can't do it all by myself!


My "best thinking" may be pretty good, even terrific at times, but it is completely inadequate, not because I'm an idiot, but because I am more like a little child than I care to admit. There is no shame in being dependent, in needing help -- I was designed and intended by God to depend on Him and need help. God never intended that I should be self-sufficient. He never intended that my "best thinking" would be anything close to all I need.


At 7/14/2005 01:11:00 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

WOW Phil... I am grateful to your break down on that... I too Try really hard to be self-sufficient and to do on my on, and I resist being helped until, I am ready. This new point of view will really help be more willing to accept and ask for help, it has given me a differnt way of understanding. thank you. HAve an awesome day. I am off to take my beautiful daughter to the zoo!

At 7/14/2005 03:56:00 PM, Blogger K said...

You know it's pretty awesome how far He has brought you. When I think back to the first post I came across, it just blows me away how far the two of you have come together.

Btw, where are your original posts? I was gonna link back to one of them and discovered I can't get to anything past December 2004? Those archives tell a great story!

At 7/14/2005 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Hey, Bossco! :) Yep, December was when I started this blog. This was my first post. I was talking a good ball game, but I relapsed just 2 weeks later! God has, indeed, been gracious, merciful and kind to me.

I'm glad to see you're having such a great spring and summer. It was a pleasure catching up on your blog. :)

At 7/14/2005 05:23:00 PM, Blogger K said...

Oh oh oh, thank you. You know it seems like you've been around so much longer. The post I was thinking of was this one. I don't know that I ever would have commented if it hadn't been for your honesty that day, it just went straight to my heart. It seems you have been steadlily climbing since then. Isn't it amazing how much God loves us all and will be there for us when we let Him?

At 7/14/2005 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...


Yeah, I remember posting that one. That was not one of my happier days! :)

I had forgotten that was the first time you posted a comment here. I think God's hand was working -- you shared the good news of your faith with me when I desperately needed it.

At 7/15/2005 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice, Phil. Good thoughtful insight into the dangers of our "best thinking" LOL!

Namenlosen Trinker

At 8/09/2005 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Trudging said...

Great post!


Post a Comment

<< Home