Small Victories

As a parent, I’ve begun to look for small victories.

My son Jack is approaching three years of age. His sister Hannah turned one in October. As you might imagine, their interaction with one another doesn’t always ooze peace and love. Two things contribute a great deal to the problems: Jack has developed typical toddler self-centeredness and possessiveness and Hannah engages in the regular activity of a baby, i.e., crawling around and messing with all the things she can get her hands on. This leads to regular cries of “NOOOOOOO HANNAH!!!!”…which are usually followed by some phrase that includes a first person possessive pronoun and the name of a toy. Sometimes, these episodes are punctuated by Hannah’s normal method of protest: wailing. The sense of moral injury is almost palpable. I’m sure some of you can relate.

As you might imagine, Rachel and I grow regularly exasperated in telling our son that he does not need to play with every toy in the house at the same time and that there are much better alternatives to swiping them away when his sister is playing with them. Nor is it any fun when he persists and we have to discipline him for what seems like the gazillionth time.

That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Jack occasionally turning the proverbial corner, saying to his sister in a cherubic voice, “Here you go, Hannah,” as he presents her with an alternative toy.

Thankfully we’ve started seeing small victories in another area. Most mornings, either Rachel or I will read to the kids from one of the Read Aloud Bible Stories books or something similar. Jack is currently fixated on the story of David and Goliath from that series, requesting it almost every day. I’m happy to report that the Read Aloud book doesn’t fall into the misinterpretation of this story I mentioned a few weeks ago, but instead emphasizes that God was the one who helped David win his battle, just as he earlier had helped him save his sheep from a lion and bear.

Like all of these stories, the final page asks, “What did you learn?” It states clearly that God helped David and gives me an opportunity to ask Jack who his helper is. Interestingly, my son’s favorite answer to that question is currently someone named “Nas.” Who is Nas? I’m not completely sure. It sounds uncomfortably close to some kind of ancient pagan idol, but I’m fairly confident it’s just my son’s way of messing with me.

Despite this, there are signs that the message of this story (along with the ideas in some of similar books and songs) is starting to sink in. For example, I’m encouraged when Jack tells himself “God is my helper” in the midst of being frightened by the large and menacing fan (?!) at Wal-Mart. Or when he comments that God is the helper of a character in one of the books we read at bedtime. Am I saying he has a well-developed concept of God’s power and faithfulness toward his people? No, after all, he’s not even three years old. But I do think he’s taken some of his first steps down the path. Like I said, small victories.

All of this leads me to a place where I feel both challenged and encouraged as a parent. I’m challenged because of what seems like all the effort and time that it takes to make little starts and fits of progress. I’m left with reality that I’m profoundly in need of God’s grace for perseverance in training up my children in the way they should go. On the other hand, I’m significantly encouraged because of the fact that God so often uses, not the spectacular, but rather simple and mundane efforts to shape and mold kids’ hearts to love and follow him. So “let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

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