My one-year-old better understands and can better express some spiritual axioms better than I can.
Take today for example: no matter what I did, no matter what I sang, no matter how hard I tried, Kai would just not settle down for anything in the world when it came time for a nap. The second that I laid him down in his crib…BOOM! Kicks. Cries. Wails. And this kid was INTENSE in expressing his displeasure: after I let him just go ahead and cry for about ten minutes, as soon as I opened the door to his room, I noticed he was not only standing in his crib, but his blanket was crumpled in a corner, his stuffed dog was out of the crib, and his pacifier had been thrown – THROWN! – across the room.
To put this in perspective: almost every morning, after breakfast, playtime and sometimes going out to walk Maggie with me, we’ll just settle down on the couch in the living room or back in what Ashley calls the “man cave” to relax, calm down, and get bored to sleep by watching something on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel (hey, I like these shows, but he’s just one year old. Cut him some slack). After he drifts off, I carry him into his room, put him down in his crib, and then I can be on about my merry way to drink coffee and partake in my morning rituals.
Today? Somehow my actions were clearly an affront to his dignity, and all he was lacking was the physical dexterity to be able to call someone to explain that his basic civil rights had been somehow violated.
We wrestled (both literally and figuratively) for the better part of 30 minutes with me trying to get him to go back to bed until I finally decided that I’d had enough. I capitulated. I figured that if by God he wanted to be up, then he was going to BE up, and that we were going to get dressed, and go outside and be productive.
We fed ducks.
When we came back for lunch, he was just so tired (duh) that he fell asleep while taking his bottle. I decided that his need for sleep should take precedence over food, so I stood up, carried him into his room, and laid him in his crib.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
We were quickly headed for a repeat of this morning’s reenactment of The Shining when I decided to just bring him into the living room, lay a blanket down on the couch, and let him sleep there.
And that worked like a dream…provided that I kept a hand on him at all times.
It was at this point, while I was stroking his increasingly curly hair, that I felt something come over me. Not the frustration and building anger over the fact Kai wasn’t being rational. Not the justification of the list in my head of reasons why drinking before noon shouldn’t be frowned upon. Not the desire to do a Google search for the maximum amount of Benadryl one can offer a toddler.
I realized that Kai just wanted to be near his dad.
Just like I do.
How often do we feel separated or distant from God, and – unlike Kai – aren’t able to articulate our frustrations or are able to express what we’re feeling? Kai did the only thing he KNEW how to do: he cried out to me. We, the rational and intelligent adults, either look to other things to fill the gap in our hearts and minds or we play the Blame Game and just give up (“Church sucks – I never feel anything there, so I might as well just stop going”).
Even when I was never physically far from Kai (waiting just outside his door to see if he’d quiet himself on his own) and I was out of sight, to him? It felt like an infinite gulf between us. Those things that normally brought him comfort – his pacifier, his blanket – were useless and impotent in their ability to comfort.
And my God, I know that I’ve felt exactly the same way in my own life. That the times when I felt as if God was nowhere to be found, when I was wandering in the wilderness, when I looked for a reason behind the pain I was feeling and why I felt so alone…I know that I cried out, both literally and figuratively, for Him. Through anger. Through a voice that cracked because I had been crying for so long. Through tear-stained eyes and a blotchy red face. Finding no comfort in the items that surrounded me.
The reality is that all we have to do is cry out. It may never seem as if we get an answer, but we are heard. Comfort may not come immediately, but it can come and oftentimes will come – not when we want it, but when we need it.
We may even get others in our lives to assist us with finding an answer. All the genuinely helpful advice and loving support I got from Ashley this morning? At the time, all it felt like was a critique, as if she was telling me that I wasn’t “doing it right” in terms of how to placate a psychotic one-year-old. And I’ll be honest and transparent: I wanted to lash out at her (I have since subsequently asked for her forgiveness).
I know that I’ve bared my teeth in the past to colleagues and friends in much the same manner, thinking their concern was judgment. All they wanted to do was help. God was trying to use their voice for His words, and much like a bitter angry child lashing out at injustices, I drowned out them and Him by throwing my own version of a temper tantrum.
As I write this, Kai is laying face-down on a blanket on the couch, snoring, with his pacifier slightly askew in his mouth. Every so often, he’ll just take this staggered, sharp intake of breath – almost as if it’s a remnant of his crying from earlier. I’ve been able to move my hand off his head, and he has released the death grip on my pants leg that he had earlier.
But he knows I’m still here.
I wish that I had the faith of this child in this regard.