Eighteen month-old Emerald has always been a busy child. She doesn’t sit still much. She changes her mind a lot. She investigates all of the things she shouldn’t. And she also happens to be funny and often sweet and generally fascinating.
This weekend we visited grandparents for Thanksgiving. Traveling with a baby is always a challenge. But, all of my kids have always slept pretty well in the play pen that we got when Adelade was born. It’s great because, like a regular baby bed, it holds them captive until they fall asleep. On Thursday I put Emerald in it for her nap, and a few minutes later she came strolling into the living room, just as proud as could be of her genius baby ways. She had climbed out, completely undeterred by the drop to the floor.
Later that evening I put her to bed, which didn’t thrill her at all. I stood and watched as she immediately threw her leg over the side of the play pen and jumped out. I sternly told her no and put her back in, and her response was–you guessed it–throwing her leg over the side to hop out again. And the battle of the wills was on.
In case you’re wondering, after much weeping and some actual gnashing of teeth, I finally won the battle. She slept, probably resentfully, in her little baby jail, and I half-slept, listening for the sound of her little feet on the floor, picturing her running around unsupervised in a dark house at two in the morning. I felt sure she would be splashing in the toilet and drinking cleaners and doing who knows what else.
And, this was the first night of our Thanksgiving visits. The next night, it was on to another grandma’s house. The battle ensued again. And tonight we came home to her real bed in her real room, and I felt such relief to be here, in our own house, where I knew she would sleep and where I was reasonably sure she couldn’t escape.
She went to bed cheerfully. I listened from the living room as she chatted with her dolls. She got quiet, and I breathed a sigh, relaxed, knowing she was safe in her bed.
And then I heard the footsteps. She ran into the living room with a huge grin. I gave her my stern NO NO NO NO NO NO NOs. And put her back in the confines of her baby bed. She protested with crying, but she didn’t climb out again. Now she is sleeping, and I’m sitting here considering all of the many, many reasons I wish she had never discovered that she could get out of that bed by herself.
My mother laughed when she watched Emerald proudly march into the living room at her house. She giggled and told me that I used to do the exact same thing. And, so of course I decided that this climbing out of the bed thing must be a sign of great genius. Totally kidding.
But, it really does make me think about how we’re all a little bit resentful of the constraints that God places on us. Like a mama who carefully puts her baby in a safe place for sleeping, He gives us commands in order to protect us. He knows that when we follow His laws we are safe in their confines. Any child can understand that what God says is good and right is actually what is best for us, but for some reason we love to try and jump right out of the safety of what He deems right. And, sometimes we’re downright proud of ourselves when we do.
God gave us commands for lots of reasons. So that we can live lives that bring Him glory. So that we can be good friends, daughters, mothers, wives. For most of the commands that God issued throughout the Bible, we can find multiple ways that following them makes our lives (and this world) better.
God says adultery is wrong because looking at pornography destroys marriages. Because connecting with an old boyfriend on Facebook jeopardizes families. Because fantasizing about a man in a book fills your mind with lies about your reality.
God says we shouldn’t wish we have what our friends have because it keeps us from loving our friends the way we should. Because it makes us resentful of those we love. Because it robs us of the joy of being satisfied with what God has blessed us with.
God says we shouldn’t lie because it causes people not to trust us. Because it deeply hurts those we love. Because it ruins relationships.
The list could go on. What God has declared that we should do and be is the best kind of safety net. It gives us freedom to move about in the world, reflecting His image through our attitudes and actions, and it protects us from the dangers and heartaches that come when we jump out of His loving restraints.
I suspect that Emerald will commence with more bed-escaping in the future. I’m working on fourteen different plans of action right now to convince her that in her bed is best. I want her where she’s safe, and I, her only mama, certainly know better than she does what is good for her. I give her the gift of safe places to explore her world.
God gives us the same gift. We are our best selves when we stop trying to escape His good and noble commands. Following His word is like sleeping in a nice sturdy bed. No toilets to splash in. No cleaners to drink.
Just joy and peace and a good night’s sleep.