The Fourth of July is a great day to celebrate freedom—from the Redcoats, of course. But on this Independence Day I also celebrate freedom from delusion—a freedom traced directly to parenting my 2-year-old son Daniel.
Daniel is a lot of fun, with his chipmunk grin, his muss of brown hair, and the impish gleam in his eye. It’s a gleam that delivers on the promise. Recently we caught him in the fridge plowing through a stick of butter all by his lonesome. Another time he was squeezing two bottles of toothpaste onto the counter because, well, why not? And then there was the tower of Charmin rolls he built right in the toilet.
Like many toddlers, Daniel goes where he wants and when he wants, heedless of threats and warnings. Closed doors are as nothing—be it a bedroom door, a bathroom door, or even the shower door. Whenever I wash my hair and feel a strong breeze on my backside, I know who came to visit.
Unfortunately, the problem isn’t limited to doors in our own home. Recently he slipped inside the neighbor’s home, occupied by an elderly woman who often spoils him with cookies. He silently stood behind her while she talked on the phone. Not surprisingly, when she turned around and found my little guy grinning at her, she nearly dropped dead from fright and surprise.
But it is Daniel’s willfulness that has been most conducive to my freedom. Of course, with seven other children in the home, willfulness is not a phenomenon unknown to us. But Daniel is endowed with a super-abundance of this particular gift. If I issue an instruction that doesn’t coincide with his own inclination, he often shrugs as if to say, “I regret to inform you that I cannot comply with your instruction at this time.” As if it’s a regrettable but natural technological failure. Eventually he stares straight at me, tears welling up in his eyes. He knows disobedience will result in a consequence, but he is unmoved—a picture of tragic courage summoning his last reserves for a principled defiance.
During one of these face-offs recently I prayed, “Lord, what is up with this kid?” Quick as a flash I heard the question: “Is he really so different from you?” Then I thought of my own struggle for obedience—my proclivities toward gluttony and unkind speech. With distress I realized how often I disregard God’s admonitions and prioritize my desires. It was suddenly clear that Daniel and I have the exact same problem. We are both the owners of a proud and stubborn heart, both attached to our way even when duly informed what we want is harmful.
It was not a welcome revelation—to see my sophisticated strivings reduced to the simple defiance of a churlish toddler. But if the truth hurts there is hope in it. Suddenly liberated from the illusion of spiritual health, I quickly confessed my rebellion and sin, comforted by the fact that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV)