For Owen it came early, just a scant nine months of breathing air and he was beginning to understand authority. The light, but decisive, tap to his diapered bottom after his little back had arched and his voice had rung with anger at our insistence that he lie down, was enough. He quieted, he did not continue fighting and he slept.
Ivan waited a little longer to show us his willful side. He was determined to have his way and I was even more determined that I would love him more than that. Our battle probably lasted for a half an hour and though he lost, in the end he had conquered something greater than the toy he gripped so firmly. He was learning, not just to obey, but that he could trust me to follow through with what is best for him.
Aron made demands, but they matched mine. Most of what he pointed to, giggled at, grabbed a hold of was within the boundaries. He was extremely easy and we haven’t fought much. Now, I find him arguing more and I wonder if a good battle of wills might have been good for him.
More than I want my boys to obey me, I want them to understand submission. It lessens their need to fight through things in life, if they trust me. If they believe that in all things Kris and I are on their side, that our goal is what is best for them, they will have no trouble believing that of their Heavenly Father as well.
Our goal is not to have easy kids, who snap to attention at our slightest signal. Not at all. Our goal is to raise men who walk in righteousness, heeding the whispers of a loving God who desires the very best for them. God isn’t looking for people who are good at following commands either. He’s looking for people who are after His heart. God wants submission to His will, He wants surrender. Not because He wants to lead us like puppets to do his bidding, rather, it is to see us at rest in His peace. He has a plan for me, for Kris, for each of my boys and for every soul that walks the earth…yet so many wonder what that is. Maybe we are trying too hard to obey instead of submit.
David, in the Old Testament, knew that difference. He said these words in Psalm 27:8 When you said, “seek my face,” my heart said to you, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
So often we look for His plan, we want a direction, we seek a path and a vision. Vision only comes with submission. God doesn’t give over a great assignment to someone who hasn’t surrendered to His voice. We must seek His face before we seek His plan. Like a child, even like Aron whose little fingers often pull on my chin so that he can look me straight in the eyes. He looks for my approval of him, he questions if I’m happy with him. “Mom, are you happy about that?” he asks. He is not looking for assignments from me, he is simply desiring to know that I love the thoughtful things, the performances, the “I did it for you” things that he does. In that desire, I see his submission, and I trust his little heart to respond to me according to the joy he has in pleasing me.
Obedience is important, vital even, for our kids, but without submission it is just a play they are acting out until they can write their own script. It is important for us too. God gives us guidelines to keep us from doing foolish things, but His great desire is not to put another gold star on our church attendance chart. His great desire is for us to reach for Him, to pull on His chin a little to see again that His eyes are meeting ours, submitting to His favor, His grace, His mercy and receptive to His great love for us.