This morning, my almost-3-year-old daughter sat at the table in full rebellion against breakfast. After an hour she was eating at a pace of one cocoa puff per five minutes. I was in and out of the room attending to the day’s tasks so it caught be by surprise she had still not finished her breakfast. The bowl of yogurt she had specifically requested (!) remained untouched. I instructed her, warned her, and informed her of the consequences of disobedience.
Though she did not technically disobey—she was eating, albeit one tiny cocoa puff at a time—she was being stubborn. Now, this was not the type of stubbornness that a child picks up from the playground or catches like a nasty cold from someone else’s sick kid. No, this stubbornness is more honest. It is the type that is brewed for ages and passed down for generations. She is, after all, a Burns, and we do Olympic-level stubbornness. One day, when this trait manifests itself as rock-solid steadfastness in the cause of righteousness I will be grateful. But today it was just plain old hard-heartedness. Her ears were heavy. She was playing dress-up as the Lady Folly, refusing to heed the words of Mother Wisdom: eat your breakfast.
My sweet little girl had a command from her father, one which was within her means to do. She had been given a gift (breakfast), a task (to eat), and the tools to accomplish the task (a spoon the color of her choosing: blue). The only thing preventing her finishing breakfast was her stubborn heart. My first response was to match her stubbornness, and to meet it with a demand reinforced by the full weight of the spank spoon. She could do it and, by golly, she was gunna.
I felt my blood-pressure rise. We were headed for a showdown, and I refuse to lose a showdown (see, I told you she got it honest). But then the Gospel smacked me upside the head, Leroy Jethro Gibbs-style.
I was not relating to my daughter the way my Father relates to me.
Sure, he gives commands. He also gives gifts, tasks, and tools. In his generosity and kindness he gives me everything I need to obey, yet often I still hard-heartedly disobey. In those moments, the last thing I want is for God to drop the hammer and make me obey. I shudder at the thought of a showdown with God. Instead, my Father meets my resistance with patience. He stoops and gives more grace. Sure, he makes me obey, but he does so by helping me obey. By teaching me to obey.
So I stooped. I walked over to the table, picked up her spoon, and fed her the yogurt. I helped her obey. No one yelled, no one cried, no one got spanked. She polished off the remaining cocoa puffs and we went happily about our morning.
The rest of the day I didn’t do anything more important than imitating my Father by picking up that blue spoon.