Paisley is two. Two is a hard age – for both parents and the poor little ones who are actually two.
This year has definitely been the biggest year of change for Paisley developmentally and so on. (Although I have a feeling I’m going to say that with each new year of my babies’ lives.)
With the toddler years come some of the growing pains of, well, growing up. One of the major things we’re working through right now is weaning Paisley from the pacifier, which was going quite well until about a week or so ago.
We quit Paisley’s pacifiers months ago, and while there were a few sleepless nights at first, it went relatively painlessly. However, because she’s got a little brother in the house, we weren’t able to simply chuck the pacifiers and move on.
Recently, we were all gathered in the living room and Paisley walked up to a recently discarded pacifier that Colm had left behind. She spied it at the same time that I did, but she was closer.
Now Paisley knows that she’s not supposed to take Colm’s pacifiers – even if he’s not using them. But here was this delightful green “nummy” staring right up at her. How could she resist the allure of the molded plastic?
I caught Paisley’s eye, and she knew what she was supposed to do. Yet the siren’s call of the pacifier intoxicated her little toddler mind. She made a move to the pacifier.
From the couch where I was nursing Colm, I interjected, “Paisley! Please resist the temptation.”
Toddler thinking. Paisley reaches toward the pacifier.
“Paisley, please do not put that in your mouth. Pick the nummy up and give it to Daddy.”
More toddler thinking.
Finally, finally, Paisley picks up the pacifier. She lifts it to her mouth, and then changes direction to hand it to Josh.
Once the pacifier leaves Paisley’s hand, she realizes she’s not going to get to taste the sweet reward of her find. She bursts into tears.
As I comforted my daughter, I was struck by how hard it often is to do the right thing, just because it’s the right thing to do.
Everyone – not just my toddler daughter – faces temptations daily. And often, we don’t have our mothers’ voices instructing us to do what’s right. Usually we have to make the decisions on our own.
Like Paisley, I’ve often found myself bursting into tears upon making a decision to resist temptation. Sure, doing what’s right feels good on some cerebral level. But often doing what I want to do feels better.
Even so, that’s not the point.
Lead us Not…
Each day during our evening devotions, we read through a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism. Paisley has these perfect little illustrated Catechism books that go through the basic parts of the Small Catechism: the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Confession.
We rotate through each book pretty evenly, so each one gets read at least once a week. As we went through our Paisley moment of pacifier temptation, I thought of Dr. Luther’s analysis of the line in the Lord’s Prayer: and lead us not into temptation. Luther’s summary is thus:
“God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.”
While a two-year-old choosing to suck on her brother’s discarded pacifier is hardly the gateway to “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice”, it’s the proving grounds of childhood that prepare us for the very real temptations we’ll face later in life. Plus, taking a pacifier along to college may be considered cause for shame by that point.
It’s hard to choose a life of obedience, whether you’re following the rules of your parents, the nation, or the Lord. All too often I realize that my growing children are hardly going to be naive to the realities of the world around us.
Sometimes I’m nearly given over to despair for the fact that my children even exist in a world where people will betray, tempt and harm them. It will happen, and I’m not going to keep them in a protective bubble indefinitely because I’m scared of the world around us. My mother’s heart breaks knowing that I won’t be always able to protect them from these things.
There are some heartaches that they will be able to avoid, simply by avoiding temptation. I certainly don’t have an eye into the future where I can say, “well if so and so stays home on the night of thus and thus, then they’ll definitely avoid the greatest heartbreak of their life”. And I don’t want that power.
I want children who know when to go for something they want and when to hold back. Resisting temptation is a huge part of this equation, and I’m not going to be their moral compass forever. They have to learn to pick up the pacifiers and hand them to Daddy without my prompting.
Do I expect that they’ll do these things perfectly? Absolutely not.
But I do pray that they choose to live lives of godliness that glorify and please the Lord. Everyday, Josh and I try to model this type of living for them. Yes, we do fail. Thank God it’s not our stellar parenting skills that’ll make or break our children’s faith.
Part of our commitment to Christian parenting is the baptism of our children. Baptism is an important part of our children being allowed to partake in covenant life through the church and their own growing relationships with the Lord from their babyhood onward.
We don’t believe in an inane age of accountability or fret that our children will take too long to “decide” to follow Christ and end up unintentionally hurling themselves into hellfire.
We believe that Christ calls some children even from the womb, as scripture indicates (eg Jeremiah 1:4-5; Luke 1:13-15). We believe that Jesus calls the little ones unto Himself, and pushes the naysayers out of the way with the words “let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:13-15).
As participants in Christ’s resurrection, even now as tiny children, our children have access to the Holy Spirit as their guide and guard. While Paisley will hardly remember giving a pacifier to Josh some random night in August 2017, she’s also not going to have to wrestle with the insecurity of wondering whether she gave her heart over “good enough” when she “decided” to follow Christ, and whether the Holy Spirit is actually with her.
Baptism erases doubt in the mind of believers, even from a very early age. This peace provides a sure foundation for a life of faith and growth in Christ. This is the foundation that we pray our children will rely upon when life’s temptations come knocking.
It’s not subjective to the whims and feelings of human beings. It’s a promise built on Christ’s perfect sacrificial death and resurrection.
Just as it’s not up to our children to save themselves, they’re not alone when it comes to the trials and temptations that they’ll surely face. There may be tears, sure, but there’s a precious assurance of something far greater than a temporary self-denial.
This legacy lasts far longer than Josh or I will. Whether our children physically have our voices ringing in their ears when they’re facing hard decisions or not, they’ll have a sure guide through each sticky situation.
My children’s salvation – even at two years old and ten months old – is a gift that I’m overwhelmingly grateful for.