“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.” -Ephesians 5:1
God continually blows my mind as He shows me His Plan in the daily things of life. My three year old is in the ‘I want to do it’ phase. She just discovered she is capable and now insists on doing certain things (like buckling herself into the car seat). Most times she is successful, but it’s not uncommon for a thick coat or baggy jacket to throw a wrench into her efforts and send her into an epic tantrum.
The Holy Spirit showed me that our relationship with our Heavenly Father is very similar. When we’re born again, everything’s easy. We’re bathed in the Spirit, zealous for the Lord, doing everything we should. Like a baby in its mother’s arms, we need only let the Father care for us. Obedience comes easily . . . but only for a time.
Like any good parent, the Lord doesn’t coddle us forever. We grow and mature. We become ready for His work. God’s way is never easy, though. To do His work, we must pass His tests. He lets us venture out, do things on our own, be obedient without offering His hand to hold. Because if we’re not holding our Parent’s hand as we walk down the metaphorical street of life, we can trip and fall.
To this day, I watch my little girl fight with her car seat. I no longer help her buckle in immediately. We’re past that point in her life. She knows she can do it herself when she wears normal clothes, but she hasn’t figured the complications cold weather clothes bring to the problem she can normally solve, so she’s faced with three options:
1. Try on her own and fail, suffering the disappointment and misery that comes from losing a battle you know you’re capable of winning.
2. Ask me for instruction. I’m not buckling her in anymore, but I’m still her father. I know more about the car seat than she does. I can give her instruction if she’ll heed my words. She can use my higher level of wisdom to defeat the problem and buckle herself in. But she must memorize what I say and put it into practice. (Like memorizing Scripture and doing what it says)
3. She must ask me for help. Even if my little girl listens to my instruction, memorizes it, and applies my advice correctly, at the end of the day. Some problems will still be too big for her. Her tiny fingers and arms won’t be able to perform the complex movements necessary to adjust the shoulder belts to the correct position to accommodate her coat or tighten them afterward. I know she physically can’t do it. Only I can. And I want to.
I’m her father. I hate watching her struggle and fail and get upset. But at this point in her life, I’m restraining myself for the sake of her independence. I wait for her to ask for my help. Sometimes she does. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes I can simply reach back and put one finger on the buckle that needs a little extra pressure to lock itself in. Other times I have to get out of the car, walk around, open her door, and use both hands. My level of intervention differs in every situation.
It’s the same with the Lord. We are His dear children, adopted into His family by the Cross of Christ. He has no favorites among us. One day, He won’t reach for our hand any longer, He’ll ask us to reach for His. If we don’t, we will fail. If we don’t listen to and memorize His life-giving words, we’ll head into spiritual and physical battles unprepared. If we don’t pray for His help facing problems too big for our little fingers and arms, we might never get ‘buckled all the way in’.
And, because we aren’t buckled, the car can’t go anywhere. Our Heavenly Father is the one driving, after all. He’s a Good Father. He won’t let us speed down the road when we aren’t safe. We’ll sit in the driveway of our spiritual lives until we’re ready to ask for help, or until we grow strong enough to apply His instructions successfully.
Regardless of how long it takes, whether we sit in the driveway, crying and frustrated, grow strong enough to do it ourselves based on His instruction, or simply ask for help when we know we need it…we must realize why it’s happening. Our Heavenly Father, our Good Parent, is driving the car. He wants to take us somewhere exciting and new. But how fast we get there is entirely up to us.