I got this bright idea when I woke up on Tuesday morning that it was time to potty train Thomas. I’ve been reading up and chatting with other parents for several months, so it’s not like I didn’t know the steps. Plus, Thomas is showing several signs of being ready. Why not just pull the trigger on a random Tuesday?
Well, by day two, I was ready to pull the trigger all right, on myself. What was I thinking?!? I knew the steps, but somehow all the advice about being patient and persevering got lost in translation. What I should have read between the lines was: it’s hard. Way harder than you think. Think adjusting-to-having-a-newborn-all-over-again hard, where you will be mentally exhausted and unsure of yourself, only this time you’ve got a toddler questioning you and pushing back.
Day 2 started out worse than day 1. Not even halfway through the day and I was ready to quit. Thomas was downright refusing to sit on his potty chair and I had no idea what to do next. As I tentatively let my pantsless son sit in my lap [a risky move, for sure], I wondered whether I should put a diaper back on him and wait a few months to try again.
“God, show me what I should do.”
It was a simple prayer of utter surrender. I honestly had no idea what the right thing to do would be and I would do whatever God told me to do. I just needed to know what it was he wanted.
As soon as the prayer formed in my brain, I remembered a Bible verse, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” I didn’t know what to do; all I had to do was ask. So I asked again, “God, show me.”
Soon after my son sat on his potty without prompting and went potty. We cheered. I gave him candy. Then he did it again and again. It was like something clicked in his brain after I prayed and he knew what to do, as did I.
After the obligatory celebration following Thomas’s accomplishment, I went back to look up the verse that had somehow worked its way into my brain: James 1:5 [thank God for Google, since I only had the vaguest idea where it was]. I reread the whole chapter and I realized three things
- Testing produces perseverance. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Even this mundane moment helping my son with potty training is a trial that will produce perseverance and consequently spiritual maturity. Trials aren’t often as dramatic as being thrown into a lion’s den for our faith. It’s usually the everyday challenges and conflicts that test us. We’re called to be thankful for trials of all kinds because they are moments rich with opportunity to learn and grow. What I learned in the moment was…
- When we don’t know, ask. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God…and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). I didn’t know what I should do. Like I said, potty training is like learning to be a parent all over again. All of the systems I had in place are becoming outdated. I need help. Thankfully, I have immediate help in moments where I’m over my head. All I have to do is ask. In my situation, things may have gone the other way, but I know God still would have given me the wisdom for which I asked, even if it was to wait. Most importantly, I learned that such help comes from…
- God, “who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5). Shame keeps me away from God when I need him most because I forget who he is. I approach him like Oliver Twist, begging for just a bit more; sure my request will be met with incredulity and outrage: “What?!? You don’t have it all together yet?” Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s not going to blame me for wanting wisdom; that’s what he wants for me, too. God is generous. He wants us to know him and to be able to live in a way that glorifies him, that’s why he sent Jesus. I can approach him without fear because Jesus paved the way back with his death and resurrection. Grace doesn’t expire when I need it most and God’s character doesn’t change when I’m lost.
I walked away from this experience still feeling overwhelmed with potty training, but with the knowledge that I don’t have to flail around alone. God gives us the wisdom we need generously and without fault. May we have the faith to ask for wisdom in the moment and the courage to follow.