The Toddler Who Taught Me a Grown-Up Lesson

The nephew waiting to be pushed his the swing, happily so.

The nephew happily waiting to be pushed in his swing.

My nephew is only 4 years old, but he’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.  Honestly, kids teach you as much as you teach them.  But kids don’t teach you how to find the square root of a number or how to calculate the CPI.  No, kids teach you lessons about life.

My nephew Mason is 4 years old, but has more wisdom than he knows.  In fact, I’m not sure at his age he can even grasp the concept of wisdom.  Sometimes at 22, I’m not sure I even get it.  Honestly.

A few days ago Mason and I were playing in the backyard.  I was pushing him on his little swing tied out from a big tree branch.  Each time he would say “higher!” I would push his swing just a little bit harder and listen to his gleeful little squeals of excitement.  (Seriously, that little man will capture your heart.)  After a little while I was ready to join the rest of the family who were around the old wooden picnic table in a different part of the yard.  (In the countryside of Arkansas, a “yard” can be a very expansive plot of land, just so you know.)

Instead of just telling Mason I was going to join the rest of the family, I asked him if he wanted to come with me to see what everyone else was doing.  His response was a very quick “no” with demands for more swinging.  So then I said, “How about I teach YOU how to swing on your own?  That way, you can still go higher and higher, but you won’t need me to stand behind you and push.”  He looked at me with unconvinced eyes, but he didn’t say “no.”  I quickly went to telling him how you simply kick your feet while holding on to the rope.  I even moved his legs in the way he would need to move them to be able to swing himself.

After the short tutorial, little Mason slid down off the swing onto his feet and started slowly walking towards everyone else.  His facial expression was….disappointed and defeated.  I walked beside him and asked why he didn’t want to swing.  That’s when he started saying, “I can’t do it.  I can’t do it!”  He had zero faith in himself.  I encouraged him with, “Well, why don’t you just try?  Come on, bud.  I’ll stay over there until you get the hang of it.”  He shook his little defeated head and said, “No, it awright (all right).  I can’t do it.”

How in the world does he know he can’t do something that he has never tried?  I know he can learn to swing by himself.  He’s a smart, strong little man – and it’s just swinging.  But he didn’t have any confidence or faith in his own abilities.  Of course I told him, “Of course you can do it, Mas!  You just have to try.  I know you can do it.  Come on, just try.  I’ll show you again.”  Of course, that just frustrated him because he just KNEW that he couldn’t do it and was bothered with me asking so much of him.  His response was another “I can’t do it.”

Finally I looked at him and said, “Okay, well WHY can’t you do it?”  I mean, what was his basis for claiming that he couldn’t do this task that I know he can?  This is what got me.  His response was the most genuine and honest and simultaneously heartbreaking and eye-opening sentence.  He said, “Because I’m not perfect!”

Oh Mason, if only you knew what a perfect little teacher you are!  This showed me EXACTLY what I hide behind – my imperfection.  So many times I don’t try something because I have already made up my mind that I failed at it.  Time and time again God asks me to “try this, daughter” and I walk away defeated and disappointed in myself because I have no confidence or faith that I can do it.  Well, I am half right here – I can’t do most things.  But yet, I can.  If it were just me – Mary Elizabeth Bailey – I couldn’t do the bulk of what God asks me.  But it’s not just me.  I have the Holy Spirit within me.  I have the Son of the Living God as my Savior.  I have the God of ALL creation watching over me every single moment.  It’s not just me.  It’s never just me.

My God has equipped me with abilities that He KNOWS I can use.  My goal is to not walk away saying “I can’t do this because I’m not perfect.”  My goal is to hold on and do what God asks knowing that I CAN because my SAVIOR is PERFECT.  God doesn’t ask anything of me that He doesn’t first prepare me for, one way or another.  Trusting in that is one of the hardest things for me to do, but when it comes down to it – it’s just a matter of faith.  *Oh Father, let my faith be much!*

I can’t wait to explain this one day to Mason.  I can’t wait for my nephew to embrace the love of the Heavenly Father.  I can’t wait for him to live out Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)  I cannot wait for Mason to be old enough to understand that there is a mighty God who is going to do great things through him.  I can’t wait to one day share with Mason the lessons he so freely teaches me.

God used my 4 year old nephew to speak to me.  Who (or what) is He using to speak to YOU right now?  Listen to Him.  Embrace His direction and guidance.  Seek Him.  You will find Him, I promise.  And TRUST in your Creator.  He knows what you can do because He knows what He can do.

“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  -Jeremiah 29:11

An ending note:  To my nephew and the rest of the little ones out there, the Bible says in Luke 12:32 “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.”  Don’t be afraid to do anything that God asks of you.  Don’t be afraid of your imperfection.  Your Heavenly Father has it covered (with the blood of a perfect Savior), and He just wants to give you the kingdom.  🙂

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Pageant of Mistakes: No Winners

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

Love the heart, not the mistakes.

I believe the most involuntary of all pageants would have to be the Pageant of Mistakes.  You don’t put yourself in it — other people do.  Consequently, everyone and their cousin seem to be self-appointed judges.  But don’t worry, no one ever wins.

I get so tired with people picking apart others.  “So-and-so has a bad past, don’t hang out with them.”  “What’s-their-face does things that look bad — you don’t need to be seen around them.”  “That one person doesn’t seem quite up to your standards.”   And the judgments continue, on and on.

I understand looking out for your family or best friends.  I understand wanting the best for the people you care about, which includes the best person to do life with them.   I understand all of that.  I do.  But what I don’t think most people understand is: if you expect a perfect person according to whatever fantasy “ideal list” you have created in your mind, you will always be disappointed — no matter what.  And guess what?  Your loved ones (and YOU) are imperfect, too!

I’m not saying that people should just settle for what or who comes along.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a list of attributes you look for in someone.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong to give your opinion of someone who is pursuing someone you care about.

I’m simply saying that you are imperfect, your family members are imperfect, your friends are imperfect, and every other single person you meet is imperfect.  That imperfection is perfectly fine, though.  Two imperfect people can have a perfectly wonderful love story.  In fact, a lot do, just ask your grandparents.

There comes a time in life when you just have to say about the person you love, “I know what you’ve done and all the mistakes you have made, but I love you without hesitation.  You’re not perfect, and neither am I.  That’s why we’re perfect for each other — we know what it’s like to live through mistakes and we have learned our lessons.”

When you really, really love someone, you don’t notice their flaws as much.  You just simply want to love them.  That’s how Jesus looks at us.  That’s how Jesus always saw people.  He made friends with prostitutes, murderers, liars, adulterers, etc.  Guess what?  He didn’t sit there and tell others to shy away from one another because of all the sin He saw in each person He encountered.  Instead, He looked at the heart of the person and loved them more than they could imagine.

Jesus, well, He’s my role-model on how to love people.  He just so happens to be the one teaching me daily what it’s like to see someone for who they are, not necessarily what they have done.  He is the true judge of the Pageant of Mistakes, and His judgment is simply:  “I have taken the crown of thorns to cover any and all mistakes you have and will make.  You are all disqualified from the pageant of mistakes.  Instead, I invite you into My kingdom.  All of you are sons and daughters of the Most High King.  You do not belong in a pageant for a crown — you were already crowned with grace and love for your birthright.  You are royal by birth into My family.  THAT makes you perfectly Mine.  Be loving, be humble, and act like the co-heir that our Father made you.”

That’s the way I want to see the people I meet, the people I see regularly, and even the people who irritate me.  I want to seem them through the eyes of the man who loves them so much that He wore a crown of thorns and took the place of their mistakes for them.  I want to see and love like Jesus.  You should, too.