Thursday, June 7, 2012
What's Really at the Heart of Willful Disobedience
The command is direct enough, and I am close enough, that the spoon in her chubby fist slows to a halt.
She eyes the small mountain of cocoa powder cradled in this alluring basin of silver, looks directly at me, and inches the spoon towards her open mouth.
She stops and squeals frustration. "Mom!... Go away. I don't want you to see me."
I reconsider. Weigh options. Tilt my head slightly and come at this from a different angle. "Alexa, you are not going to like that. It's not what you think it is. I will let you try it, but believe me you are not going to like it."
She has clearly understood. She stares hard at this powder that she knows makes treats she loves, that she has seen used in many desirable ways, that is a part of her favorite, most-wished-for things. The baby-birdlike mouth opens wide again, the powder almost to her lips.
I offer one last warning. "Alexa."
She stops, irritation furrowed across her toddler brow.
"Alexa, that will not be good. You will not like it. I can mix it with something to make it sweet. That is not how you are supposed to eat it. But, I will let you try it, but believe me, it is not going to be good."
One more moment of hesitation, then her lips quickly close around the whole bitter mountain, her eyes never leaving mine.
The pungent flavor settles solid on her little taste buds, her face contorts, realization lights in her eyes.
I ask her to admit she was wrong. "So... do you like it? Is it good?"
I watch her struggle against the acrid dust, a fight of will to not spew it out. She keeps eye contact and nods her head fiercely, lips tightly pressed. "Mmmm-hmmmm."
I cringe inside and want to shake my head, am I this stubborn too?
"You do? You like it? I can tell you don't like it. Would you like me to wash it out of your mouth? I know that can't taste good."
She turns her face away, clearly trying to decide how to get this foul substance out of her mouth without my noticing, without admitting she was wrong.
She turns back and still sees me there, this unbearable witness to her struggle, her bad choice, the resulting self-inflicted suffering. She climbs down from the chair and quick-trots to the rag drawer in the kitchen.
All the way I am asking "Do you want my help? I will help you..."
She snatches up a rag quickly, but again makes the effort to turn from me, and wipes her tongue furiously.
All this darkness falls, making mess all over her, and the entire surrounding area. She casts the filthy rag to the floor. She walks away still obviously uncomfortable and unconsoled.
"Alexa, I told you that wasn't going to be good, when are you going to learn to trust me?"
She says it straight, unblinking. "I don't trust you."
I know. I know.
She trusts that I provide her food, that I care when she wails hunger. She trusts that I am a safe place from scary things, that I will turn dark places light and keep the door open, that I won't leave her alone and unprotected. She trusts that when she gets hurt I will be there with arms and words to absorb the pain and kiss her with the reassurance of my love and her coming healing. But... she doesn't trust me when I say this is not good for you. Not now. Not this way.
The knowing something about this thing desired... seeing clearly it is pleasing to the eye... deeply knowing it is a critical part of the best things ever experienced on this earth... infinitesimal knowledge can deceive into reasoning... what's the worst that could happen? Surely we will not die...
My eyes are regrettably wide-open.
So I just say it. "I know you don't. It's obvious. I hope someday you will. I pray someday you will. For your sake. For mine."
The apple doesn't fall far from that Eden tree.
It is her distrust that fills her with bitterness, and it's her pride that won't let me wash it away.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths."
"For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly."
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'"
"No one who trusts in You will ever be put to shame..."