2 Peter 3:14-15a “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”
When I was a young parent, I followed the many books that said, “If you ‘a’ then ‘b’ will happen.” Daring to Discipline, we had our “consequences charts”, and we and our Home Grown Kids knew What to Expect at every stage. While there were some great nuggets of wisdom to be mined out of many child-rearing books, the message was clear: you can nip any problem or misbehavior in the bud and all your children can be little Laura Ingalls Wilders and Opie Taylors. While I do treasure those that are sweet little Lauras and Opies, either there is something not formulaic to life, or my children are profoundly disturbed. I prefer to believe the former.
One “if then” that I bought into was that of vegetables: Only feed your babies veggies, not even fruit, and then they will like veggies all their life.
When my oldest, Ben, was an infant we started rice cereal when he was 4 months old. He nursed and ate rice cereal, nothing more. We cautiously introduced peas, nervous because after all, they are a starch and starches are really sugar and we might ruin his palette. The peas didn’t cause him to reject his other food for Hershey’s bars, so we made the bold move of adding carrots – no juice, no sugar, no fruit. Sure enough, he was quite a healthy and voracious eater, until when he was just over two, came the day of reckoning. He sat in his high chair happily eating away at a plate of chicken breast, banana and broccoli with carrots. After finishing his chicken and banana, he looked at me, batted his Bambi eyes and said, “Memmie no eat! Yucky!”
Drat! I knew I shouldn’t have ever introduced fruit or put sugar in his first birthday cake! I blew it!
Following the advice of Dorothy Moore, I simply smiled and took the plate away, excusing him from the table. Then when he was hungry, offered him the broccoli and carrots.
“Memmie no eat! Yucky!”
For two entire days, whenever I put the plate in front of him that is what I heard, and the boy did not eat. Not a bite. Finally, I caved and he happily ate oatmeal while I pondered my failure. Soon followed the systematic dropping of all veggies, many fruits, and the emergence of the world’s pickiest eater. A couple years later, we adopted our first daughter. At the orphanage, she had eaten, in her own words, “kasha just only kasha”, although we knew that candy was often used to illicit good behavior and was a cheap and well-received treat to the children. So, no variety and lots of sugar. After her adjustment to our culture, she ate anything and everything we put in front of her, with veggies, even salad, topping her list of favorites. In fact, she is our most adventurous eater!
I started to understand the Dobsonian “nip it in the bud” attitude wasn’t entirely right or entirely wrong. I was “nipping in the bud”, it was just that the “bud” wasn’t the first three years, it was the first twenty-five (as we now know that brain development continues until age twenty-five).
2 Peter 3:8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
The Lord’s “slowness” is not about filling our children with skills or purpose, no matter how valuable those things might be, but about God’s patience, “not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Whether we get our children at age one or age thirteen, our joy can be in the journey of watching them develop that relationship with God, coming to repentance. Along the way, they will thoroughly embarrass us with their sinful nature that reflects our own, showing us that we don’t hold the formula for success. If the joy of the Lord is our strength, though, perhaps we can laugh at ourselves in the process. If we allow them room for error, trusting that God is at work in all things and at all times, they, like us, will be able to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling”.