When our son Steven was only a toddler he had a fascination with outlets. Although we had them covered with safety plugs we still did not want him to touching them. Since not all the outlets in his life would be protected, we wanted to instill a fear of touching them into him. I have a very vivid memory of one particular day when Steven would test me and ultimately teach me a life lesson.
He always looked so innocent, big brown eyes like puddles of mud and bright blonde hair that practically glowed. I watched him as he crawled over to the outlet in our living room.
As his pudgy little fingers rose to touch the forbidden outlet I pounced upon him with a stern, “no no Steven”. He looked at me with a kind of bemused smile and slowly raised his hand back to the outlet once more. Again I uttered the words, “no no Steven!” this time using as gruff a tone as possible. He was startled into submission for an entire two seconds before he once agin lifted his fingers toward the outlet. As if my sweet little baby boy could comprehend my words I proclaimed, “Oh, it’s on little man!”
I knew I had a few options in this battle over the outlet.
Option one was not really an option as it involved letting him “learn the hard way” and allowing him to touch the unprotected outlet. While some may argue that he would probably only make that mistake once, I would not risk him incurring a permanent negative consequence to his choice to touch it. Option two was probably the most parent friendly of the three and involved simply redirecting his attention to something else and removing him from the source of danger. Option three involved giving Steven a quick, consistent consequence for choosing to touch the outlet. If he associated touching the outlet with a negative result, surely he would no longer seek to touch it!
Option three would require time and patience, but I assumed the resulting lesson learned would be worth my effort so I went with this option. I settled onto the floor beside the outlet and waited for his next attempt. I did not need to wait long. As his hand approached the outlet I took it in my own and administered a tiny slap and repeated, “no touch Steven ”. He looked at his hand, then at me, then at the outlet….there was only a slight bewildered pause before he tried to touch the outlet right then and there again. Each time he tried to touch the outlet I gave his hand a tiny slap and scolded him. Each time he looked up at me both hurt and confused just seconds before reaching for the outlet. I thought for sure I could outlast him in this battle over the outlet, but he was tireless in his determination to touch it.
At first I started counting the number of times he would try, and then I lost count. It amazed me how he could keep doing the same thing even when the result of his effort was negative. He kept doing the same thing over and over fully expecting a different result. Eventually I gave up and turned his attention away from the temptation and toward something safer to play.
Over 20 years later that day is still etched n my mind. First because it was an accurate indicator of the strong will we would struggle against later in his life, but mostly because the sin nature we all strive with was never more clearly portrayed to me than on that day.
I think I am not alone in that there are many things I continue to do the same way, truly expecting different results. Is God in heaven wondering, as I did for Steven, “Is she ever going to figure out that is not good for her?”
Over and over again I attempt to “handle” situations and temptations on my own. Over and over again I make the same choices expecting different outcomes.
Steven’s victory over the temptation of touching the outlet involved turning him away from the temptation. The word “repent” is associated with turning away from something bad and turning toward something good.
Let that be our challenge today, to turn from something not good and toward something pleasing to God…and most of all remember that Jesus said Himself…. “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”