Yesterday, Lillyann had a meltdown after I sent her to time out for taking a toy away from Mylah. I had seen her pitch a fit before, but this was a big step above a fit. I didn’t want to grab her or use force to sit her on the couch, so I decided to just hold her until she stopped fighting. It wasn’t easy because she was determined to get out of my arms. I told her I loved her and was not going to let her go until she stopped struggling. I don’t want Lillyann to obey me because she’s afraid of me. That’s what corporal punishment does; grabbing and jerking are the same as spanking and are all about proving who’s stronger. Obedience that comes as the result of fear doesn’t work for long. Children learn to fight and bully others when those tactics are used on them.
When Lillyann finally got tired of wiggling, she relaxed in my arms and cried out her frustration. I continued to hold her and tell her I loved her. I thought of Job and the word used to describe his repentance. Obedience and repentance go hand in hand. Both are about realizing God knows what’s best for me. Lillyann stopped crying and told Mylah and me she was sorry. She gave me the sweetest hug ever, and my heart just melted. I know from parenting and teaching that I can force children to do what I want, but that accomplishes one thing. I prove I’m in charge. It makes me feel better but does very little to help the child.
It would have been easy to scare Lillyann into doing what I wanted her to do, but I wanted her to learn a different lesson. If I let her storm and stop and scream around the room, the tantrum would have gotten louder and gone on for much longer. It hurt me physically to hold on to her, but when she stopped struggling, it was worth all the effort. God could make everyone do exactly what He wants, but He knows that isn’t what love is all about.
Repentance simply means to turn. Like Lillyann, I struggle when I’m frustrated and don’t want to obey God. I fight and squirm in God’s arms all the time, but He won’t let me go until I relax in His arms. Pastor John explained the word “nacham,” as it is used in Job, to me when I was struggling with God. He told me the best way to describe the Hebrew term was to think of a child wrestling to get out of his father’s arms. The father holds on until the child stops struggling. The sigh of surrender that comes when they finally stop fighting is nacham. That image continues to help me understand that repentance is not about guilt or God proving He’s stronger. It’s not about being bullied into behaving. It is about coming to a place of peace and accepting the comfort God’s arms always offer. It’s about obeying because I love Him, not because I’m scared of Him.
I want Lillyann and Mylah to understand that God’s arms are always around us. When we struggle, they are uncomfortable; but when we let go and trust Him, there is nothing more comforting in this world. I’m so glad that God says to us, “I’m not letting you go because I love you and always will no matter how hard you wiggle!!”