I saw myself reflected in my firstborn last week when she stubbed her toe at ten in the morning and monopolized the rest of the day because of it. A secondary lesson I learned (again) that day: don’t get too hung up on my agenda; a toddler will probably come along and squash it.
But the moral of the story of that day, for me, was bigger than letting go of agendas. Ella’s response to her injury really taught me something about myself, and nearly a week later I’m still shaking my head in wonder at my inner screaming toddler. Let me explain:
Ella was running barefoot across our pretty rough cement driveway when she tripped and stubbed her toe. But this wasn’t just a little stubbing incident. She ripped a significant chunk of skin open and bled immediately. I took her inside and rinsed it in cool water, patted it dry, and applied Neosporin, all of which she screamed through. By the time I got to the point of trying to put a bandaid on over the Neosporin she had caught on that my mission was to mess with her injured toe, and she would no longer have it. Kicking and flailing and ear-piercing screaming commenced.
My mom was staying with me for the week, so we took turns holding the two-year-old as she alternated between whimpering and shrieking, depending on how the wind blew (Literally. We were outside attempting to garden that day, and every time the wind blew Ella lost it because it burned her exposed toe). We also took turns trying any tactic we could think of to get a bandage on that toe. Sneak attack, pin her down, let her do it, offer essential oils instead of Neosporin (she loves Grandma’s essential oils and asks for them whenever she has a cut or bruise or any ailment), talk calmly and try to persuade her that the bandaid really will help it feel better. All of our advances were met with more screams and flailing
Every time we tried to help care for that little toe, Ella’s response was to thrash around and ward off our help. By doing so, she banged and brushed her toe on all manner of things and people. This not only made her cry harder because it hurt, but it also wiped off any ointment or oil we had managed to apply, and we had to start all over again. I wish I could say it was the proverbial “two steps forward and one step back,” or even one step forward! But it was zero steps forward and several steps back every time we tried to intervene. Eventually all we could do was wait for her to fall asleep at nap time and then get a bandaid loosely over the offended appendage so as not to wake her.
And I saw myself in her kicking and crying; boy, did I! I stub my toes all day long, metaphorically speaking. I resolve in the morning to be patient with my toddler in her trying moments instead of modeling my impatient voice that she now mimics to the perfection; but then I trip somewhere around breakfast time and tell her more harshly than necessary that she’s dripping milk “ALL. Over. The table. STOPIT.” Later I hear her in her bedroom screaming at some innocent toy or book, “NO! Ella do that! Right! NOW! STOPIT!” And I am struck with defeat as a mom and a role model.
Sometime in the middle of the day when I am fed and maybe have even had a little time to myself during the kids’ naps, I think to myself that I will give my husband grace when he comes home and he needs to decompress a little before jumping into Dad mode. I know he needs that transition time, and I will respect that. But then he comes home and I’ve just spent an hour with a post-nap two-year-old who is whiny because she’s hungry but it’s almost dinner time so mean old Mom will only allow her a small snack, and the baby is screaming because she obviously starved over the course of her nap and how could I not be feeding her already, and the kitchen is a mess because I thought I could get dinner ready in this same hour’s time. In walks my poor hubby. The situation is booby-trapped. He proceeds to change clothes and wind down from his work day for a few minutes, only to be greeted with my sarcastic, “Don’t worry, I got it,” as I stomp in two-year-old fashion over to the crying baby and pick her up. So much for being an understanding wife. Boom. Feelings of inadequacy for me to trip over and stub another toe. (Thank you, Satan, for that little demon that plagues us moms).
And all the while, whether it’s these minor injuries to my pride or my character, or bigger brokenness I wrestle with like, “Will I be able to carry another baby to term after what happened with Hope? Can I trust You with that question, God?” my God is right beside me, or trying to wrestle me down and saying, “Hold still!” with a healing balm and a bandage ready. He’s here with me, day after day, attempting to heal my scrapes and deep wounds, only to be met with kicking and thrashing from me. Medicinal ointments sting. Two-year-olds don’t have the capacity to look ahead to the day that that very ointment has helped their injured toes feel better. They just see the increased pain in front of them and they do not want that! They would rather forego normal functioning like walking and playing than face the sting of healing head-on. And aren’t I just the same when it comes to more abstract pain and healing? “You say this is for my good, God, but this situation You’re leading me into looks a whole lot like it might be painful. No, thank You!”
Every day, God is trying to do the necessary work of mending me, and He is long-suffering in the process, but there I am fighting it because it’s unfamiliar or uncomfortable or even increases the pain temporarily. I’m just like a toddler who can’t conceive of the end goal and surrender myself into God’s loving hands. Fear of pain and uncertainty convinces me that I need to maintain control and ward off intervention, even though my way of doing that actually inflicts more pain as I bump and crash into more obstacles.
Lord Jesus, help me view my brokenness through Your eyes, and help me recognize Your intervention as something good and to surrender to it. Open my eyes to when I’m being like Ella and making things worse by kicking away the very balm that I need. Remind me often that You are the Healer, not me, and help me trust Your healing touch in painful moments.