Recent interactions with my toddlers has reminded me why legalism isn’t just wrong, it’s impossible.
As the kiddos started to explore and find their way in toddler life, I figured I’d have a few ‘NO’s’ and off limits and then try to make the rest of life free and clear to them. But, the further we get down this toddler road, the more I realize that this is not possible.
There are a few definite off limits, ‘NO’s.’
- NO touching the stove
- NO diving into the bathtub (without Mommy or Daddy around)
- NO running into the street (without holding our hand)
- NO telling Mommy or Daddy, “NO.”
Sometimes, ‘Yes,’ Sometimes, ‘NO.’
But, with most other things, I keep finding that the answer is sometimes, ‘yes,’ and sometimes, ‘no.’ Here’s a few examples:
‘NO,you can’t have that toy. It’s time for us to read books and get ready to sleep.’
‘YES, I’d like for you to play with that toy. I need you to entertain yourself for a moment while I get dinner ready.’
‘NO, you can’t climb into the car right here. This is a busy parking lot and I need you to be in my arms at all times.’
‘YES, please climb into the car yourself. You can take your time because it’s safe here and we’re not in a hurry.’
‘NO you can’t have something sweet to eat now, it will ruin your appetite.’
‘YES, we’re going to have dessert now and it will be fun to enjoy a treat together.’
‘NO, you can’t talk loudly right now. Your brother is trying to sleep.’
‘YES, you can scream and shout all you want. Now is the time to dance and be loud and use up a lot of energy.’
I’ve been wishing that life could be simpler, but it just isn’t. If I could just make a ‘DO NOT DO THESE THINGS OR TOUCH THESE THINGS OR EAT THESE THINGS’ list, the kids would not be confused and I would be able to put my feet up and have an iced tea or two.
But, because the answers and freedoms for things are so dependent on each situation we find ourselves in, my kids have to stay near me, look to me for direction, and be willing to follow even when I say, ‘Hands off’ for something they’re used to having free access to.
God says Sometimes ‘Yes’ and Sometimes “NO”
And so it is with our heavenly Father. There are the definite ‘NO’s’ in His house. These are spelled out clearly in Scripture, especially through the TEN COMMANDMENTS. We don’t have to listen to His voice to know whether or not we should be longing for our friend’s beauty, skimping on our taxes, or dishonoring our parents with our words. The answer to these is a clear, “NO.”
But, for most other things, the answer from God is sometimes ‘Yes,’ and sometimes, ‘No.’ The answer, of course, depends on God’s sovereign plans for us and His intimate knowledge of all our needs.
This has a few implications for me:
- I want to be careful to not assume something is a ‘NO’ from God when Scripture does not say so
- I want to be hesitant to assume that others are disobeying God when they are enjoying a pleasure or doing something that is in the ‘sometimes Yes, sometimes No’ category
- I want to have my hands open and be willing to release something when God decides it’s no longer in the ‘YES’ category for me
God’s answers of sometimes, ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no’ encompass everything from vocation to location to remuneration. What’s disobedient for me may not be disobedient for someone else. And what’s okay for me now may not be okay in the years ahead.
This is a narrow road to walk-staying within the solid lines of Scripture and yet knowing which side of the road to travel down. The way for me and the way for my toddlers is the same-staying close to my Father, listening for His voice, and waiting to hear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ before making an uncertain move.
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