Some say he is cute, adorable, loving, sweetheart, precious, silly. Some say he is smart, active, ornery, crafty, mischievous. Some say he is his Dad. As for myself and Julia, we say he is just Shepherd. He is the kid at one moment standing beside you after church, as you talk with friends, and the next moment he is up on stage banging on the baby grand. He is the kid that as you go to the bathroom, he seizes the opportunity to make a run for it and heads out the front door; leaving you to return to an empty house and jump starting you into “freak out” mode. All the while he is chillin’ at the neighbor’s house. He is the kid at 7:00 am in the morning who is sprinting back and forth between the living room ottoman and the front door. Culminating in giving the front door knob his best Tarzan scream and swing! Yes, Shepherd is not the most content child and he sure does know how to experience life to its fullest. You could say he is a slightly strong-willed child! Although Shep does keep us constantly on the run, his comical and sometimes tiring energy opens our hearts to more laughter and our eyes to more wisdom.
Shepherd’s age and active personality has required us to become more disciplined in our disciplining. At a certain point you begin to recognize that saying, “Shep! Shep! Shepherd! Jonathan Shepherd! Jonathan Shepherd Faught!” does not prevent your child from conducting the mischievous task at hand. So, we have begun to clearly communicate and warn Shepherd once of the impending consequences. If Shepherd continues in his mischief, he gets into trouble. One of our latest “warning sessions” turned humorous and enlightening.
We store our DVD player and DVDs in a small two door cabinet adjacent to our sofa. Usually, the two door knobs are Shepherd proofed, a.k.a. rubber banded shut. At this particular moment the cabinet, for some reason, was not Shepherd proofed. Of course, Shepherd was drawn to the DVD cabinet like a magnet, along with his usual partners in crime Bob and Larry from VeggieTales and Woody from Toy Story. So, off I went to warn Shepherd and steer him clear of trouble. I bent down to his level and gently and clearly warned him to stay away from the DVD cabinet. I made sure he knew that if he got into the cabinet one more time he would be in trouble. How did Shepherd respond? He, without hesitation or reservation, immediately picked up Woody and began using Woody’s arm and hand to open the cabinet door! So therefore, it was no longer Shepherd who was getting into the DVD cabinet, but it was Woody! Now, I know the Woody picture is a little freaky, but this picture perfectly captures the moment. I was stunned, caught off guard, and truly amazed. All I could do was laugh and walk away. I should have disciplined Woody, but sad to say, I was not as quick-witted as my 23 month old son!
While the latest Shepherd incident was pretty humorous it was also revealing. I was amazed at the sinful nature of man and how it shows up crystal clear in a 23 month old. Like every other toddler, Shepherd lives for the moment. In an instant, he would choose the temporary excitement to crack and shatter VeggieTales DVDs over the longer lasting enjoyment of watching a VeggieTales DVD. And as he showed with Woody, he would bend the rules or even break the rules to achieve his temporary desire. Oh, how we all succumb to this sinful nature! A nature that dismisses God’s plan and structure for eternal pleasure. It is a nature that will vehemently break or recklessly bend God’s eternally provisional order to achieve temporal pleasure.
I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis’s quote from Weight of Glory,
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Our desires are too weak not too strong. Our strongest desires are for fleeting pleasures and our weakest desires are for the eternal pleasures.
So, what is our escape from this trap? How do we overcome that which is rooted in the depths of our heart and soul? The best answer I could find comes from Ezekiel 36:26-27,
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”.
Sign me up! Don’t we all need a new heart? Don’t we all need to be regenerated? Don’t we all need to be born again? (John 3:1-8) I am so thankful for the grace and mercy God has bestowed on me in transforming my heart and life. Now, I pray every day that he would extend the same grace and mercy to my two sons. I pray that He would open their eyes to recognize the difference between temporal and eternal; that God would transform their hearts and set them free to pursue Christ and His eternal promises and pleasures!
Now, off to clean up the lipstick Shepherd just used to paint the carpet and himself! No joke – Julia is going to love this one!