Thursday, October 24, 2013

On Potty Training and Eternal Realities

Jude had been saying for months that when he turned three, *then* he would be a big boy and use the potty. I'm not sure where that idea originated, but we decided to run with it. Over and over in the weeks leading up to his birthday, we talked it up. On Monday, we celebrated his birthday with a zoo date and strawberry cake. On Tuesday: GAME ON.

So those of you who are parents know that Tuesday was a long day. It was high-fives and text updates to Daddy, crocodile tears and wet laundry, beeping timers and stickers, all brought to you by Lightning McQueen and Thomas the Train.

The truth is, Jude was awesome on his first day. The problem was simply that my gut reaction to potty training mirrors my gut reaction to many of the day-to-day demands of motherhood: a whiny, self-pitying "This isn't fun. This is hard. This is too much work. I don't want to do this."

Let me save you the trouble of commenting: I know that's shameful. I know how great I have it; I know there are countless women who would give anything to be enduring potty training. Yes, I know that these are blessings, not burdens, but I'm going to be honest and admit that in my selfish flesh, they don't always *feel* like blessings. My emotions, like most people's emotions, don't always follow objective reality.

Late Tuesday afternoon, with my patience wearing thin, I knew that my attitude was deplorable and I needed to shift my thinking. I asked myself: How can I see Jesus in the midst of potty training? (Is there blog fodder in all of this?)

A few thoughts came to mind:

When you have an early victory, you can't lose your head celebrating. You might get so distracted mentally composing a triumphant Facebook status that you don't even notice you're standing in a yellow puddle. In other words, "if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).

You will have successes and you will have failures, and you get to choose how to frame both. You can say, "The black Xs now outnumber the Cars stickers on the potty chart. This is horrible." Or you can say, "We have some hits in between all those misses! Not bad for the first day!" In other words, this life is a long obedience in the same direction, and we can celebrate every baby step of progress along the way.

In the moment, the work doesn't seem worth it. Diapers would be SO much easier, right? No pleading with reluctant, scared setting timers and making dozens of bathroom frantic hunts for public changing clothes several times a puddles on the just go on with your life, and change a few diapers along the way.

But over the long haul, no one questions the merits of potty-training. I still sometimes marvel when my six-year-old recognizes the urge, goes to the bathroom, and wipes himself without any assistance from me. It is so wonderful! So you have to keep the bigger picture in mind; you have to keep reminding yourself how good it's going to be someday.

And the crazy thing is, someday all this work will be a distant memory. When we were in the midst of Elijah's potty-learning, tracking his progress was all-consuming. Suffice to say that the process was a long, drawn-out nightmare.

What amazes me now is that I can't even recount the dramatic details. I remember that it was awful, but I can't even recall the timeline of when exactly he learned to pee and how much longer it took for the pooping, or how old he was before he could stay dry overnight. At the time, it was overwhelming and seemed like it would never end; in hindsight, the memories are fuzzy and unimportant, even a little bit funny.

And so that's why I'm here being honest about my selfish laziness and reminding myself of the truth. In the moment, hard work of any kind almost never seems worth it. My flesh whines, "I don't WANNA! It's not FUN! It's too HARD!" (Hmm, sounds just like my three-year-old!) But in the end? "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). And yes, I fully recognize the big-picture ridiculousness of calling potty training "suffering," so if you'd prefer, there's this:

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

The truth is that Jesus is so glorious and Heaven so real that ANY affliction we endure now--be it the obviously "light and momentary" woes of potty-training, or the unimaginable, lifelong sufferings that seem crushing and unending--ALL of it is going to fade when we see Him face to face.

Jesus is the one who endured real suffering and affliction. He is the one who did the work and made the sacrifice that would have destroyed me. And when I fall at His feet, I won't be thinking of even the hardest things He asked me to do. If anything, I'll wish I could have done more in response to His great love. 

So as I look with my physical eyes on a red potty chair and adorably tiny briefs, I'm still trying to train my spiritual eyes to look up. This life with its trials and joys is but a breath, and I will enjoy it so much more if I focus now on what will matter eternally--if my thoughts are consumed with His sacrifice instead of my own. 

[This post is part of the series "31 Days of Seeing Jesus"--click here for a list of all posts.]


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your experience.
Potty training your child takes a lot of patience.

Kelly Brown

Danielle said...

How's it going, any better? Making progress? Sophia's doctor said just to stop for a while. It was horrible. Sophia understand the concept completely but is very fearful and was holding to the point of not going for days and crying because she was backed up. After several weeks of working on it without a single success, we decided to revisit it later. When I asked her about when she was ready to be a "big girl" she said: "When I'm six." Uh oh.