whoever enters through me will be saved.
One summer afternoon, while soaking and floating in Adams Lake with my school day buddies, Lea and Kathy, we engaged in storytelling about—what else—our kids. “My favorite story of Matt,” Lea announces, chuckling, “is of how Rex and Linda had to gate him into his room at night with THREE gates!” I’m sure Kathy has heard this story before, but it is also one of my favorites, so I readily share the details.
Matt learned to walk early (way too early, in my opinion!) and strongly objected to any form of containment. Climbing in and out of (or on top of) just about anything was his forte’ at a very early age. At around age two, he decided that the crib was more a vehicle than a stationery object best utilized for slumber. By shaking the crib, he discovered that he could masterfully maneuver it across the shag carpet to within arms reach of the dresser. His goal: the jar of Vaseline, which works quite nicely for creative expression on all sorts of surfaces.
Not to be outwitted, Rex and I craftily removed the wheels and chuckled with delight as we lay him down for his nap. Not a problem! Matt quickly learned that he could escape the crib by climbing over the bars with the wall at his back to keep him from falling. However, without the wheels, he would become stuck between the wall and the crib and we were afraid he might hang himself. So, it was back to the drawing board.
Feeling somewhat defeated, yet ever hopeful, we removed the crib from his room, placed the mattress on the floor and tried every psychological trick we could think of to convince Matt that he was now a big boy and ready to sleep in (and stay put in) a big boy bed. Matt reveled in his new-found freedom, wandering the house from the minute we put him down. Not to be outwitted (yet, again!), we placed a baby gate in his doorway. No problema! He loved to climb and joyfully took the challenge like a squirrel to a squirrel-proof bird-feeder.
The gauntlet was thrown! A second gate was installed above the first gate. But freedom still remained a mere scramble away. Rex wanted to just close and lock the door, but I couldn’t bear the thought of locking my child up or of not being able to peek in and check up on him. So a third gate was purchased and the doorway was now impenetrable. We definitely won this round, but at quite an emotional cost.
Have you any idea how guilty a parent can feel upon discovery of one’s two-year-old curled up on the floor, by the gated doorway, tightly hugging his blankie and stuffed monkey, sound asleep, looking so sweet and innocent? Trust me, it’s traumatic. But hey, incarceration worked! We could work through the trauma.
The new nightly routine now became a process of setting up camp for Matt at his doorway, settling him down for a story and prayers, the designated parent of the evening sitting cross-legged in the hallway. After kisses, gates one, two, and three were installed. Some nights, the inmate would scream and holler and other nights, he accepted his incarceration peacefully. Eventually, the gates were no longer needed (I can’t remember if this was when he was around four – or sixteen…)
Twenty-five years later, the parental guilt has abated, and Matt does not seem to have been too terribly traumatized. We look forward to having grandchildren—we just hope Matt has a child “just like” him!
I wonder, do our Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit ever hang out, like Lea, Kathy, and I—floating on a cloud, perhaps—swapping stories about their children?
“Hey, did you hear that Linda locked her keys in the car again—that makes three times this summer! And this time the dog was in the car! What on earth would she do without our rescue service?”
“Oh, I can top that! Did you hear the one about when Rex…?”
“If you think that’s funny, just listen to this!”
I imagine that, from God’s perspective, we often act like two year olds, in need of constant parental vigil and ingenuity. Does God get exasperated with us, impatient with our immature behavior? (Just check out some of the Old Testament stories about the Israelites and you’ll know that he does!) Does God heave a big sigh of relief when we’re safely tucked into bed at night, knowing we’ve made it through another day of shenanigans?
Daily, I am tempted to climb over the gates erected by my heavenly parent to keep me safely contained. Sometimes I actually make an escape. But like the time when I was five or six and climbed over the backyard gate—and caught and tore my pants on a picket—my escapes are less than graceful. While I crave freedom, and desire to be my own boss, ultimately I know that living in God’s gated community is in my best interest.