I have a toddler. Anyone who has raised one knows it is among the most exhausting things you will ever do. They are in constant motion—usually in the wrong direction. Whether toward danger or irresponsibility they jigger gigglingly toward it. Toddlers survive because parents constantly jerk their verbal leashes and, sometimes, their literal leashes.
Toddlers have zeal but lack knowledge. They plunge into tasks with the unbridled confidence that only comes from ignorance. Cute but messy. Toothbrushes are encrusted with minty barnacles. Peanut butter doubles as makeup. Band-aids and bruises testify to their many missteps.
The other day, I told my wife I was burned out, tired to my core of uttering commands. She wearily agreed. As a parent, you reach a point where you have nothing left but have to keep going. If you don’t, your child will turn out to be a gremlin fed after midnight. The Serenity Prayer just doesn’t apply here, people.
After corralling my gremlin into bed one night—and returning two minutes later to straighten his blankets, and returning two minutes after that because he dropped a stuffed animal, and returning two minutes after that because…I don’t remember—I had a moment to reflect. A scripture came to mind: “I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them” (Isa. 1:14). Suddenly, I heard this verse with the ears of a parent who is burned out by relating to his children through commands. All the brain-fried, sucked-dry-by-leeches feeling I have after a day of ordering small people around echoed back to me in the word of God.
I’ve long understood that the old covenant ended at the cross. God’s plan-A wasn’t to keep us in line through outward rules. His desire was always for His Son to live in us (Gal. 3:24-29). The law was a rough sketch of Christ. God wanted us to have an idea of what Jesus was like so we’d know we aren’t Him. God’s requirements don’t really have to do with not murdering, committing adultery, or honoring parents. God requires His Son. None of us is that Son, even if we follow all the rules. God always planned for that Son to be in each of us, as a gift.
So I got all that. But parenting taught me how heartsick God feels when He has to command us all the time. He has no love for obedience to His orders. He longs for the law to be written on our hearts, for us to be governed inwardly because our heart wants what His does.
This is the difference between toddlers and older children. The one does what they’re told (if repeated at least 3 times). The other does what they’ve internalized. They are their own rule, in a sense, and need no rules.
Christians fall into similar categories. Some relate to God through His commandments. It’s all about the rules. Others spiritualize this. They’re not about the law of Moses. They do what the Holy Spirit says. But is it all that different? Whether dad leaves you a note or speaks directly, He’s still telling you what to do.
Hebrews 10:8-9 says:
“After He says above, You did not want or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings (which are offered according to the law), He then says, See, I have come to do Your will. He takes away the first to establish the second.”
The old covenant is in sacrifices, offerings, and commands. God didn’t want these things and took them away when Christ came. In Christ, the covenant is One who does the will of God because He is the Son of God. This Son has come into your heart and mine to do the will of God without being asked, reminded, commanded, or cajoled. Christ is the balm for our Father who is heartsick and wearied with bossing us around.
My prayer is to be ruled more and more by the inward heart of Christ; to mature and put childish ways behind me (1 Cor. 13:11).