I have a stubborn two-year-old. Yes, I know that all two-year-olds are stubborn, but mine is stubborn even by two-year-old standards. It’s only 9:30 in the morning, and we've already had several standoffs. I told him not to touch Daddy’s BBQ because it gets very hot and could hurt him. He said his toy BBQ is too hot, but Daddy’s is not too hot. I explained that he should never climb in the washing machine or dryer because they are very dangerous. They are for washing clothes; the bath is for washing boys. He retorted that the bath is dangerous, not the washing machine. These are opportunities for me to teach him boundaries. Does he understand that I love him? Does he understand that I discipline him because I don’t want him to get hurt?
The weather has been getting nicer, so I have re-instituted our morning walks. There are certain boundaries that Jack is learning he must never cross. There are instant consequences if he runs into the street. He’s slowly learning that it’s better to listen to Mommy, but he still has to push the boundaries. Often. I've tried turning this lesson into a game. We play a version of red light, green light as we walk along the sidewalk. I’m trying to make it habitual for Jack to stop when I say “stop.” So we walk up and down the street to stop, go, stop, go. He’s getting there, but he still has to push the boundaries on a daily basis, make that hourly basis. Why doesn't he understand that it would be so much easier and safer if he listened to his mommy the first time? Will he someday recognize that I’m trying to keep him safe and develop his character?
As I explained to him, once again, why we don’t walk into other people’s yards, I was reminded of Psalm 16:6. “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” I’m typically a rule follower, so I understand how God’s laws keep us safe. There are very clear rules about not running into the street. If you commit adultery, there will be a world of hurt. If you commit murder, be ready for some instant consequences. I've watched enough stubborn people push the boundaries and get smacked upside the head that I am content learning from their mistakes. I also know that my son got his stubborn streak from me, and I am just as guilty of wanting to run my own life and take paths (as long as I feel they are safe) without listening for direction.
I want to be the type of child who with every step listens for my Father’s directions. Stop, don’t go that place of self-pity today. Go, talk to that person. Stop, enjoy this sunset. God is not trying to make me into a robot who is constrained by harsh rules any more than I want my son to act like a trained dog who follows my every command. God wants to give us the freedom and joy that are only found in the path of obedience. Psalm 16 continues:
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Joy, security, life, pleasures. I am only just beginning to learn how delightful our inheritance is. Will I continue to listen and lean into those pleasant boundaries?