Something else, though, that is becoming clear is that my child is not an innocent little 15+ pound person. He is a baby sinner. He's cute. He's cuddly. He has smiles that melt us in two seconds or less... and his cries break my heart. But he was also born depraved. He was also born with a human, sinful nature and only God's grace will save him. He is not pure and perfect until he learns his first words or takes his first steps or until he first throws food on the floor. It starts now.
I can catch glimpses of it when he arches his back and screams when I hold him close, when he is obviously tired, in an effort to help him into sleepy time. In the past hour I've been back and forth between the nursery and the living room, patting the rounded tummy, putting the pacifier back in, walking up and down the hall and around the house, rocking wildly in Daddy's recliner and singing anything and everything that comes to mind (thankfully they were all baby appropriate. No Lady GaGa today.) I held him tight and refused to allow him to fight me. I am, right now, stronger than my son. I told him "No.", tightened my hold and shushed him to sleep. Finally.
My son is a sinner in need of a gracious Saviour.
But also,... his mommy is a sinner in need of a saving God, too. My imperfections are visible. Sometimes too visible. Sometimes my sin catches me by surprise. My anger shoots through the roof or there are the times when exhaustion marries frustration and makes a hateful, ugly baby that brings me to do crazy, irrational things... such as locking myself in the bathroom and beating the counter with a hairbrush and crying bitter, ugly tears until the devil inside is quieted. Mercies are new every day for a reason: 'cause we desperately need those new beginnings over and over again.
I don't mother perfectly and I never will. It's not just that I'm new at this that makes it hard. What makes it hard is that I'm a sinner, too. I have my selfish moments (and days). There are times when all I want is two quiet seconds to finish drying my hair so I don't have to run around all day with it wet and stringy. And those are inevitably the times when Joel is not so inclined to be cooperative. Those seem to be the times when his sinfulness peeks out, too. Sometimes I forget that he has bad days, too. That just because he's little it doesn't mean he doesn't get belly aches or is just having a no-good, rotten day. And it certainly doesn't help when mommy feels like she's in the pit, too.
What I am learning is not only that I have a ways to go in just about every department, but that my son does, too. I'm not better 'cause I'm bigger... and he's not better just 'cause he's little. We're both train wrecks. And sometimes we crash and burn on the same days. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes his rough day is met with unending patience and numerous cuddles. Sometimes my unbearable days are met with a baby who eats and doesn't puke, sleeps for longer than thirty minutes and smile, smile, smiles until I can't help but smile back. This is life as a human. As someone who is fallen. It starts when you're little and it doesn't go away just because you buy a house and have a dog and get married and start having babies.
Having a baby makes you realize so many things. It makes you realize how hard things really must have been for your own parents sometimes. It makes you sorry for all the hassle you put them through when you were a teenager and claimed to have more wisdom than, well, anyone. It also makes you see what a miracle life is... and how inspiring and gorgeous love is. How breathtaking life can be when the love of two is multiplied and something brand new develops and is born. It's achingly beautiful. It's ashes and roses.
I love my little man and because I love him, I will remember that he is not perfect. I will remind myself that while he is a handsome little devil, he is also not yet holy. I will strive to discipline and love and instruct out of love and passion for God and not out of my own desire to have a tidy little boy (ha!) who says "Please!" and "Thank-you!" and "Bless you!" when someone sneezes. It's about more than politeness in public. More than obedience at home. And it's about much more than getting him to do what I want him to do when I want him to do it.
Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I want my way when he wants his way. Sometimes I fail to choose grace. Sometimes I forget to pray for patience. And sometimes I am tempted to make excuses for him... and for me. It is true that he is "just a baby". He is limited in terms of knowledge of why he does what he does... but I know that there are times that he does what he does because he has a will. Even if he doesn't know it yet, I do. Because I have one, too.
And so not only should I teach and guard and guide... but I also have to understand that when it comes to dying to self, my son doesn't know, yet how to do that. He doesn't know he's being selfish or stubborn or acting out... and he doesn't know, yet, when I'm acting that way. But I do. And that means that Mommy has to remember that little eyes are watching and little attitudes are going to be mimicking and little mouths are going to be repeating.
It's my job to reign in my own sinful nature and give it up to God. And it's also my job to not cripple my son by making excuses and allowances for his behavior based on age or limitations - but to help him see what being a sinner in the hands of a gracious God is all about. To ask for forgiveness. To admit when it gets the best of me; when I have not acted appropriately or Biblically.
We would be smart to remember our early days. We still have all the same parts, they just aren't so little anymore. But I'm pretty sure that our ears, eyes, mouths, hands, feet, minds and hearts could do a much better job than they do on most days. This is often painfully apparent in the midst of growing little people who are soaking every bit of you in... all. the. time.
Be patient with us little babies. We need Jesus to love us, too.
"Oh, be careful little ears what you hear...
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see...
Oh, be careful little mouth what you say...
Oh, be careful little hands what you do...
Oh, be careful little mind what you think...
Oh, be careful little heart what you love...
For the Father up above is looking
down in love, so be careful little
heart what you love."