Yes, it’s true. Even though we don’t like to admit it. Especially when we’re toddlers.
Though it’s been years since diaper-changing was a part of my life, I have many not-so-fond memories of the potty-training process. I’m sure there were some toddlers out there who, keenly aware of their own bowel movements, immediately reported them to their parents and asked to be changed. But this was not the case in our family.
For my (and I think most) children the process looked something like this: Poop in diaper. Resume normal activities which include sitting, standing, rolling, etc… as if nothing ever happened. Hear parent’s suspicion that you may need a change. Vehemently deny parent’s suspicions. Continue sitting, standing, rolling, etc… until said parent finally picks you up and uncovers the proof. Whine and cry during entire changing process as if it was the worst thing that ever happened to you.
It’s easy, as a toddler, to get comfortable sitting in our own waste.
And just as easy as an adult.
I wrote last week about the “work[ing] out” of our salvation, and how our faith gets its greatest ‘workout’ in our relationships. And if that’s true, then being married is like being in continuous, intense, marathon training!
There’s something about spending many years living with, dividing chores with, making millions of decisions with, and putting up with the quirks of another person that draws the sin right out of you. It’s uncanny how all of my greatest flaws and deep-rooted pride make their stink known, especially when Tim and I disagree!
For me, and maybe you, too, the process looks something like this: Get in disagreement. Believe I’m right (because I am, of course! 😜). Sense pride making its way out. Sit, stand, and roll around in it by taking personal offense that my “rightness” is not being acknowledged. Sense more pride. Sit, stand, and roll around in it some more by adding “tone” to my comments until I feel like I’ve “won”.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul offers up some solid advice on how to live like Christ in our relationships. In chapter 3, his focus is on false teachers in the church who had been leading the Philippians to put their confidence in their “flesh” rather than in what Christ had already done. In response to their error, Paul proved that he, if anyone, did have reason to put confidence in his flesh, but one encounter with Christ revealed to him that those attempts to achieve “righteousness” on his own were nothing but “rubbish” (Philippians 3:4-9).
Because of this, Paul encouraged the believers to “press on” toward Christ by “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (3:13-14). For Paul, Christ meant a clean, fresh start where he left behind the burden of pride – both in his attempts at righteousness and his failures at achieving it. No longer dwelling in his own mess, he was free to move toward what Christ had in store for him.
Clean, fresh starts are available to us at salvation and also at any everyday moment. But in the heat of an argument, it’s so easy for me to act like a toddler! There’s something in me that’s aware of the mess (the Holy Spirit seems to have an impeccable nose for it), and yet I’d rather just sit in it. Because admitting it and letting go of it by making a change seems too hard.
In chapter three of their book, “You and Me Forever,” Francis and Lisa Chan provide a serious marriage “workout” challenge: “The one who wins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ”. It’s crazy how I can be fully aware of the stench of my pride, but everything inside of me wants to keep pressing on for the “win” with my “toned” presentation of facts and feelings.
Over several months of marriage counseling (one of the best things we’ve ever done!), Tim and I have learned the magic of the simple phrase: “Can I try that again?” In any moment, a fresh start is available. A simple request to “try that again” pushes the pause button, pulls us both down off our high horses, and allows us to start the conversation again – minus the “tone”.
Yes, it’s hard to acknowledge my pride in the moment, but forgetting what lies [in my] behind is the surest way to free us up to move toward each other and toward Christ!
(Full credit for this illustration goes to Jessica Mello, my dear friend who is deep in the throes of toddler parenting 😲)