Olivia started walking this past weekend.
One minute she was balancing ever so precariously on her baby feet, rocking her heels back and forth while excitedly flapping her arms. And the next, she was high-stepping it to the one corner of the room I did not want her to venture, the corner with sharp edges and hard floors and other ominous things I had yet to baby proof. The “elephant graveyard” of the living room, if you will (#LionKing).
Now, I realize that plenty of eager babies learn how to walk at 9 months. But I’m new to this parenting game, and I was sort of hoping that I had a bit more time before my baby became a toddler.
Olivia had other plans, and now we’ve got a 9 month old toddler terrorizing the house.
And “terrorizing” is most definitely the right word.
I should have seen it coming when I watched Olivia take the very first steps of her life towards the most dangerous area of the room. She’s learned how to pick her feet up, which in her mind means that she’s ready to climb everything in sight: the baby gate, the couch, the stairs. Really any ledge of any kind. Olivia doesn’t discriminate.
And once she’s accessed the ledge of her choosing, she’ll search for something on the ledge or around the ledge to throw off the ledge. Again, no discrimination here; all objects are welcome.
She’s terror, chaos, vulnerability, adventure, and curiosity. All rolled into one.
And she has shattered my idea of what it means to actually be a child of God.
Whenever I’d hear that phrase “child of God” growing up, my mind would imagine those Precious Moments figurines. You know, the ones of the little children either praying on a fluffy cloud or wearing angel wings or snuggling a puppy or picking a flower or whatever. They looked angelic. Peaceful. Innocent. “True” children of God.
But then I had Olivia. And the only time she ever resembles a Precious Moments figurine is when she’s asleep. And even then, her smooth face is marked with the bumps and scratches she’s acquired throughout the day. Also, she snores.
Children are insane. They’re chaotic. They’re messy. They’re rebellious. They’re scandalous. They’re the opposite of peaceful. And they can be an affront to order and decency.
But they’re adventurous. Imaginative. Curious. Passionate. Painfully truthful. And ever since Olivia has started walking, she’s developed this fearless energy—an eagerness to touch and taste and explore every inch of the world that she possibly can before naptime.
I’ve been learning more and more what that phrase “child of God” really means as I continue to wing this parenting thing. God doesn’t want lifeless statues of forced postures and artificial scenes. God doesn’t even want us to grow our own set of angel wings. God, in all His craziness, wants children.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14).
I’ll bet there was a screaming baby in the crowd the day Jesus spoke those words. Or a few defiant toddlers and elementary school kids who wanted to get closer to the action rather than “just sit still” like their parents ordered them to.
But God still wants children. And, if we want to set aside our adult arrogance for a second here, how childish of a person I STILL am! I threw my own little temper tantrum at God just yesterday afternoon. I whine about not getting my way. I cry when I think that God has left the room when really I just haven’t opened my eyes between the tears to see that He hasn’t gone anywhere. I rebel. I sometimes slam my bedroom door and tell God that I hate Him and His so called “love.” Or I’ll stand at the foot of His bed and tell Him it’s time to wake up and do something.
I like to call myself an adult. But let’s be honest. All adults are really just children who can mask their emotions a tiny bit better. And some days, we can’t even do that.
But God knows this. He knows how children operate because He knows us. He became one of us to reach us. Love us. Rescue us from the shit we messed in our diapers.
No wonder I can’t help but smile at Olivia’s fearless energy and desire to move and climb and walk and babble and get her hands dirty with the stuff of life. God wants the same from me. And from you.
I’m taking my own baby steps when it comes to figuring out who I am as a “child of God.” But I do know that I’m not called to be a tiny figurine who sits distantly up on a shelf, posed in her own personal prayers. God loves and wants adventurous, fearless, vulnerable, teachable, and loving children who are willing to climb any ledge for His kingdom and its radical love.
So, like I started this post, Olivia has started walking. We’re both thrilled and terrified. She’s definitely been turning our little world upside down. In more ways than one.