Every mom has her classic diaper blow-out story.
I will try to spare you the details, but let’s just say I found my one-year-old unzipping her pajamas to reveal a 30 minute nightmare of cleaning – the child, the carpet, the bathtub, the hallway, and the toys scattered around the crime scene… all two hours before hosting a Valentine’s party with our friends. It was no joke.
I quickly plopped Lois in the bath as she burst in tears. Meanwhile, Dolly, our “always in the way” three-year-old, dropped a bathtub toy into the dirty bath water. Grrrr! Another thing to clean! Then upon exiting the bathroom, I felt instant claustrophobia because someone had opened the hallway door. Not to mention every step I took felt like walking in a mine field of human waste and/or possibly infected toys. There was just a hot mess of everything wrong.
I survived. But it wasn’t pretty. After all the children were cleaned and sent downstairs to play while I finished the sanitizing, did the whole situation unfold into a most unexpected God moment.
As I cleaned the bathtub I noticed the little squirty fish bath toy that had annoyingly dropped in the dirty water. I had a mini flashback: Wait… Dolly was playing with this fish. What was she doing with it? Oh yeah… She was playing with the fish up high on the shower walls, just like I do for Lois, to help her look up so I can pour water over her head. She was copying exactly what I do, trying to help Lois concentrate on something other than the discomfort of the bath. It dawned on me, Dolly had taken the initiative to ease her little sister’s bath trauma by diverting her attention to something much more happy, the little rubber fish. In fact, I even remember Dolly attempting to crawl into the bathtub (yuck!). She was doing all she could to enter into Lois’s pain to relieve it.
Then as I made my way into the hallway, I noticed something else. The closet door wasn’t just open. It was propped open by the stepping stool our children move around to reach things. There it was, placed right where the bath towels are left to hang inside the door. Another flashback: Wait a second… I never got Lois her towel! What? I never got Lois her towel? That’s right, Dolly came rushing in with Lois’s towel right after I shushed her away from playing with the bath toy. Oh my gosh… I literally started crying. In the whole fiasco of the morning, in the stress of everyone and everything in the way, there in front of me the whole time was a big sister and a big helper doing everything her little brain power could do to ease the stress. And on top of all of that… It really did help!
Again, as I entered the room and saw Lois’s pajamas, did I start thinking of all the ways Dolly never left Lois’s side. Dolly was the one who alerted me of the situation. Dolly was the one who stood by Lois in making sure she was all finally cleaned up. Dolly quickly did everything her little three-year-old brain could do. And all I saw was a three-year-old “in the way.”
After collecting myself for a moment, I beaconed Dolly upstairs. I apologized for my annoyance toward her acts of love. Then I looked into her big brown eyes and told her very seriously, “Dolly, Mommy didn’t see you, but God did. God always sees you. And he was rejoicing!”
The implications of this diaper-blow out situation are sinking much deeper than the surface. I don’t know if the greater lesson is my rebuke as a chaos-charged mother or the encouragement seen by a relentless big sister giving her life up for the sake of another.
It’s definitely both.
How many times does this happen? How many times do we overlook something marvelous, beautiful, and even advantageous because we are so busy looking at the filth, the craze, the stress? How many times do I disregard God’s Spirit at work because I’m too heavily concentrated on the heat of the moment? Or, on the other hand, how many times am I looking down at the mess, losing sight of the big picture God is accomplishing around me? I’m either looking down and forgetting to trust God’s grand plan, or I’m looking up and forgetting that God is working in the teeny, tiny details all around me. If only I could just notice more and stress less. And especially when it comes to other humans around me. Especially that.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.” (1 Peter 3:13).
I pray Dolly received today the blessing of being zealous for what is good, despite opposition. Now, I don’t think my irritability toward her was necessarily to the scale of persecution, but my reaction definitely challenged her pure-hearted initiation to nurture, love, and care. And yet, Dolly’s love persevered. She wasn’t crushed. She had what Peter exhorted his church to have, “brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8b). Dolly wasn’t loving Lois because she wanted praise from me. I don’t know if she was loving Lois because she wanted praise from God either, but as I reflected upon the situation, I wanted to press into Dolly the fact that her simple acts of love are never unseen, even if not a single human eyeball ever looks. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12). And as I spoke into the little eyes of Dolly, I wanted her to want the praise of God most. Because what God thinks is most important and because he always sees. As I spoke, I desired this for myself.
I desire to persevere in love, despite how man reacts. I desire to please the Lord, the Father who sees all, in the smallest, most mundane moments by loving relentlessly, purely, to help those who are right in front of me. I desire, not to go out searching for the biggest influence, but to love people right in front of my face with the greatest love I can think to give. I desire to risk the possibility of a contaminated bath toy because I’m so concerned about loving a person. I desire to think ahead in providing other’s needs, even if it makes my own personal space tight and a little claustrophobic. I desire to persevere in love even when I’m shushed away, because the Lord sees. God always sees.