Toddlers never cease to amaze me and usually astound me. I have a few twitches to prove it.
In our old home there were certain items that had been “forbidden” to our little ones. For instance, the ever lurking and always fascinating electrical outlets were always labeled “Authorized Personnel Only.” I could just see it, I would turn my back for the briefest moment and one of them would plant a giant, slobbery kiss on one of those little electricity spitting menaces and…ZOWIE!!! “Waaaaaa!” “Child, haven’t I told you…” (Most fortunately, this one never happened to us, but I’ve been told other parents actually suffer nightmares from it.)
No we have not endured any electrical exhilaration, but there was something else. That something, for our oldest son, was a high and looming object in the corner of the family room. Black, hard, austere, I’m sure that from his vantage point it looked to be a mighty fortress just waiting to be conquered. It just stood there. To him it must have been almost mystical. From the top there arose a tall tower. In the front there opened and closed a creaky-hinged door.
Like any fortress it never seemed unprotected either. Always, always, our son knew the guards were not far away. Giants they were. Sentries on the prowl. Never mind they were also known as Mom and Dad. When it came to that thing they were like Ninja. For a toddler this all added up to high adventure. The pages of a Little Golden Book turned themselves in his very own house.
Yeah, that’s it. You guessed it — the Dreaded Wood Stove of the Family Room! Many was the time our oldest heard the order being issued by one of the sentries. “Thou shalt not touch the wood stove; for in the moment you touch it you shall surely feel much pain and scream thy little head off.” But, remaining true to his species, he constantly marshalled his forces (two teddy bears, a purple pig, and a funny looking lion). He developed strategy and plotted tactics. Finally, he would launch a full frontal assault on the “Fortress Wood Stove.”
See, like every human, our son hears from the “United Front of Dark Espionage.” It seems their reports are always contradictory to the commands of the sentries who stand their ground on behalf of the Great King. Filtering through the airwaves, or brain-waves, or whatever, comes that age old intelligence report:
“Have they indeed said, ‘You shall not touch the wood stove?'”
Our son, would peer across the vast plain of the family room. His brow would wrinkle. Pondering. Mulling it over. He would then hear the final message:
“You shall not surely feel great pain and scream thy little head off. For in the moment you touch the wood stove you will be like them. You will really know things then. You will be your own boss. You will be in control. Yes, you will say when it is the best time to eat and sleep. You will decide whether it is good or bad to break your mother’s fine china. You will be like them!”
Then, sadly, our son would heed the report. With a shrill scream and flailing arms, he would launch that attack. Complete with diversionary tactics and commando like energy, his invasion upon the “Fortress Wood Stove” looked bound for success. Five feet. Four feet. Three. Two. One. Only inches left. The screaming was about to begin.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere would come the long arm of a sentry. Swooping down, Mom or Dad squelched the rebellion as suddenly as it had started. The battle ended. Nothing remained except the retreat.
“Why, Papa, why? How tum tan’t I tush it?”
Good question, huh? It’s no different then yours or mine. Or Adam and Eve’s. Though we rebel, God forgives. Though we run, he never loses sight of us. Though we fall, he picks us up. It takes time to learn when we’re little. It takes time to learn when we’re big. Life and death, light and darkness, obedience and rebellion crowd the adventures of history and everyday living. Sometimes the learning is painful. Sometimes we’re spared. Sometimes, if we are open to it, God will prevent us from touching the heat. Because he is holy and full of grace, we can be equipped to accept the freedom of saying “No!” to the Fortress Wood Stove of the Family Room. It begins by saying “Yes!” to Jesus.