Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ages and Stages of Children and Faith

Parenting to me has been one giant object lesson in faith after another.  This week, as I looked at the vastly different stages of my three kids, I couldn't help but reflect on how I remember different stages in my faith that were oh so similar to where they are at.

The new my sweet Ellie girl.  She is the easiest baby I have had, cute and cuddly, eager to learn new things and find new abilities.  Other than the world revolving around her, she hasn't fully embodied that sin nature yet.  There are times when I marvel at how much I love this little one, just want to love on her and have all the patience for when she just wants mama (who couldn't when they are just so crazy cute and sweet?)  She delights in the world around her with awe and giggles and is so very trusting.
I remember being a "baby" Christian- new to the world of faith and a relationship with Christ.  I often had the feeling my little one looks to be expressing above.  Mountain top experiences, filled with awe with God and my Savior, wanting to just curl up in His arms, joy bubbling over, and excited to learn everything I could.   In the same way I wish I could bottle my kids' energy, I wish I could bottle that feeling to refer to it on the harder days.  I still have glimpses of that, but it is missing the innocence of youth, I think.  I know the Love our Father has for us, because I know the love I have for my own children.  It is amazing to think that just as I adore my little ones, want to hold them, comfort them when they are upset, and delight as they do, so does our Father.

The Two Year Old-  Oh my crazy Sami...she is in the depths of toddlerhood.    All that is terrible about twos, she experiences daily.  I have said that I think two year olds help us to understand original sin.  God said don't do it, and we did.  This is our daily battle: don't do that, don't put that in your mouth, be gentle to your sister, dog etc, listen to Mommy, don't pee on your father, be my sweet girl...the list could go on and on.  Whatever I say, she does the opposite.  She loves learning but sometimes I think it is so she can continue to be smarter than us in her own mind.  Of course, she chose one of the hardest days I have had with her to sweetly tell me for the first time that she loves me, and my heart melted.

 Let's be honest, I have been there more recently than I care to admit.  Whether it was an issue of flagrantly going against what God wanted for me and sinning or sinning by omission, not doing the things God asks of me, I have gone through my own toddler stages of faith.  Thankfully God's patience far surpasses mine and he has been there for me through these stages.  There have been times when I feel I have had blessings removed due to my own choices.  Looking back, I can imagine God lovingly saying "That was a bad choice" while putting me in a spiritual time-out, while I worked toward an attitude of repentance and learning to listen to Him again.  Just as my toddler often makes me want to pull my hair out at times, I am sure God looks at me and thinks "Seriously??  You know better!"  Thankfully, just as I remind myself daily with my toddler, "This TWO shall pass."  God's patience wins out and I grow, change and learn by his grace.

The Teenager- Everyone keeps telling me to brace for the teen years, and they may get rougher but at 13, my oldest is an awesome person.  She isn't perfect, but she tries hard.  She loves to learn, grow and be challenged.  She is figuring out who she is and who she wants to be and I am so proud of who that is.  Sure, there are more eye-rolls these days, an increase in her embarassment by her parents, some moments of surprising attitude, but on the whole I am in awe of the young woman she is becoming.  Her beauty, grace and intelligence are inspiring.  We aren't necessarily in the clear for rebellion, but I refuse to believe it is inevitable.

I see my child growing into such an amazing person, and I hope that I sometimes cause my heavenly Father to feel the kind of pride I feel in her.  I know I still have moments of attitude with my Father, but I hope those are growing to be the exception.  I am sure someday I might progress past a teenager in my spiritual maturity, but I guess I have only been a Christ-follower for 15 years, so my teenaged behavior might make sense at times.  Just as we grow and change throughout our lives, so do I continue to see the growth in myself.  I hope I continue to grow, change and mature throughout all the days in my life, so that my heavenly Father will be as proud of me as I am of my own kiddos, saying "well done, good and faithful servant."

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