This is not going to be about what Jesus was like as an actual toddler (although it’d be fun to imagine what a prayer to Jesus-as-toddler might be, a la Ricky Bobby’s prayer to Jesus-as-baby, “Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, in your golden, fleece diapers, with your curled-up, fat, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air.”)
Instead, this is about flipping the usual parenting analogy. Most spiritual analogies that involve parenting have God as the Heavenly Parent and us as the unruly, slightly stupid, and really stubborn children. Here, we’re the parent and Jesus is the toddler.
Let me set it up.
I was reading Isaiah last week (in my 3-year-long journey to read the Bible from beginning to end, yes, I’m only up to Isaiah) and came across this from 59:9,10,12:
So there is no justice among us,
we know nothing about right living.
We look for light but find only darkness.
We look for bright skies but walk in gloom.
We grope like the blind along a wall,
feeling our way like people without eyes….
For our sins are piled up before God
and testify against us.
And the image of our sins piled up before God struck me. I imagined a tower of blocks — childhood toy blocks. Probably because those are the kinds of tall piles I’ve made, over and over, while playing with children, both mine and others’.
I stack the blocks and the kid knocks them down — gleefully. And cries, “Again!” I race to build as much of the tower as I can before the kid knocks it down. And then we do it all over again, and again, and again. The kid has endless energy for knocking that tower down.
Isn’t this like Jesus? We’ve got this tower of sins that blocks us from God and Jesus knocks it down. That’s what Christians celebrate at Easter.
I have a vivid mental image of a particular little boy I had in children’s worship last year who’d let me build a tower of blocks as tall as him before he’d bust it down with the most delicious belly laugh and victorious jumping up and down. I like this image for Jesus scattering my tower of sins because it punctures my angst and navel-gazing with a KAPOW!
But I’m not done.
Here’s where the analogy stretches a little, because it isn’t Jesus begging us to build up the tower of our sins again, it’s us. We take the things we’ve already been forgiven of, things that are laying scattered on the floor, and stack them back up. We cannot give them up.
I guess I’m assuming things about you, but I can tell you with full confidence that there’s a lot I have a hard time giving up.
- Any stupid or unkind thing I’ve said.
- Confidences I failed to keep.
- Plans to help someone that I never acted on.
- Disciplines I haven’t been able to keep up.
- An unwise decision I made in college that I asked forgiveness for several times because I kept forgetting whether I’d done it.
- Excessive use of sarcasm with my children.
- Irritability with my family.
- Anger and bitterness that I can leave on the floor for months before letting them sneak back up into a wall.
- Crippling disappointment — I say “crippling” because there’s plenty of fleeting disappointment, but I’m talking about that Job-level of complaint, “I’ve done so many things right. Why isn’t X going like I want it to?” Which is really this in disguise: “I’d run my life so much better than you, God!”
- The need to both be right and be acknowledged as right. About way too many things.