“MOOMMMEEEEEEE!!!!!” STHTUCK! STHTUCK! MOMMEEEEE!” I drop the dishes I am doing and come running. In the living room, I see my 1-year-old screaming for help, tears streaming down her face. She has stuck her fingers into the tape deck of the VCR and the mean plastic flap isn’t allowing her to pull them loose. She is indeed “Sthtuck.”
“Oh no!” I empathize. “Let’s get you out of there!” Pushing the VCR flap out of the way, I release her fingers and soothe her tears. Then I sit her down for a stern little chat, using simple words that will hopefully resonate in her brain. “VCR is ouch!” I tell her. “VCR hurts fingers.” I show her the little red mark on her fingers and make a concerned, sad face. “OUCH!” I say again.
“Ouch,” she repeats in a sad little voice.
Figuring that her injured fingers are enough of a natural consequence, I go back to doing the dishes. She won’t try that again.
“MOMMEEEEEE!!! STHTUCK! MOMEEEEEEE!”
Sighing dramatically, I return to the living room to “un-sthtick” her fingers once more. I don’t feel as sorry for her this time. She knew what could happen if she tried to stick her fingers into the VCR, yet she did it anyway. “Why?” I ask her, once more soothing her tears. “Mama told you VCR is ouch. Why would you go and stick your fingers in there again?”
“I sowwy, mama.” She gives me a big, sorrowful hug, sniffling into my shoulder. My heart melts.
“Leave the VCR alone,” I tell her firmly, but gently. Once more I emphasize the OUCH and the PAIN and the TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES and then I return to doing the dishes.
I bet you can guess what happens next.
Sure enough, more hysterical crying from the living room.
“Are you serious?” I grumble to myself as I extricate her fingers from the flap once more. Again, I soothe her tears. Again, I remind her what will happen to her fingers if she chooses to stick them into the VCR. Again, I leave the room, the VCR still within her reach.
“Next time,” I tell myself. “I’m just going to let her get herself out of that VCR.”
Of course, I don't follow through with my threat. However tempted I sometimes am to do so, I never abandon my daughter. When she gets her fingers stuck in the VCR again, and her face melts into sorrowful tears and she cries out “STHTUCK, MAMA! HELP!” I rescue her. When it happens again, I rescue her then too. In fact, I have probably rescued her from that stupid VCR no less than thirty times. And still, she will occasionally stick her fingers into it. She just doesn’t learn.
Later, I am contemplating my frustration in the face of my child’s relentless repetition of deviant behavior when a thought occurs to me:
“This is how God must feel.”
How many times does our Father warn us in his Word of behavior that will hurt us? Ever hear of The Ten Commandments? That is at least ten of his warnings, right there. Yet we ignore these warnings, don’t we? Not just once, or occasionally, but relentlessly.
“Sure God,” we say, “I know you say I shouldn’t do this thing, because it will hurt me if I do. I know it hurt me last time I tried it. But I’m going to do it anyway.”
And then, when we are inevitably hurt as a result of our actions, we cry and scream for God’s help. He never ignores us, although he has every right to do so. Instead, he rescues us. Every time. He even sent his own Son to rescue us permanently from eternal suffering.
Because God is a softie when it comes to his children. He cannot watch us suffer forever, although we certainly deserve to do so. He loves us too much. When we come bawling like blubbering babies at his feet, foolish and sorry for that thing we did, again, he forgives us. Again.
Sometimes I find myself thinking: If God loves us so much, why doesn’t he simply remove all of the things that can hurt us so that we can’t possibly disobey him and hurt ourselves?
This seems like such a simple solution to the problem, doesn’t it?
I could ask myself the same question. Why don’t I just remove the VCR so that my daughter can’t possibly get her fingers stuck in it? (After all, don’t most people own a Blu-Ray player by now?)
The answer comes to me immediately.
Because I want her to learn to use the things in her environment properly so she can enjoy them.
I want my kids to be able to use the VCR to watch the collection of tapes that I enjoyed in my childhood. I want them to be able to watch “Raffi” or “Bugs Bunny” or “Veggie Tales.” If I took away the VCR, I would be removing temptation and risk of failure, yes. But I would also be removing the enjoyment of classic videos my kids could experience if they learn to use the VCR.
God blesses us with many gifts that, if we use them improperly, can become temptations.
Wine is a gift. In moderation, it allegedly reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, and slows the progression of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. In Jesus' day, wine eliminated bacteria, serving as a water purifier. Wine is such an amazing substance that Jesus picked it to be His Blood in Holy Communion. Yet we all know the hazards associated with drinking too much wine. Hangovers, car accidents, and lives destroyed by alcoholism, to name a few.
Sex is a gift. Used within marriage, it blesses couples, enables them to enjoy one another physically, and unifies them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It often leads to the blessing of children and family. Improper use of sex, however, has its consequences. I think everyone can tell a story of a relationship torn apart thanks to lust or cheating, and promiscuity leads to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The internet is a gift. It enables us to communicate quickly, to keep in touch with long-distance friends, and to share ideas, stories, photos, and recipes. Spend way too much time on facebook recently? Then you probably know what can happen when you abuse your access to the internet. If not, your frustrated, ignored children, the deplorable state of your home, and lack of nutritious food on the table can probably tell the story of what happens when you neglect your responsibilities in favor of watching 57 consecutive cat videos on youtube. (No, I have never done this. *shifty eyes*).
God has given this world all kinds of blessings that are only problems in our lives because of our sinful nature. We are tempted because of sin to take what God designed to be good and beautiful and turn it into something ugly or dangerous.
Today I plan to spend some time reading and reflecting on God’s “rules”, particularly focusing on the advice I find myself regularly resisting or ignoring. Maybe you would like to do so as well.
Let’s read, reflect, and think about any consequences we have experienced as a result of our repetitive bad decisions.
Then, we can pray for God’s help in defeating temptation. Here’s a little prayer to get us started:
“Lord, I am like a toddler. I ignore your warnings, misuse your gifts, and fail to learn from consequences. Help me to use the gifts you have given me according to their intended purpose so that my life may glorify you.
Has God given you any gifts that double as huge temptations in your life?