“Here, let me help you.”
“No! I can do it myself!”
Anyone who has ever been the parent of a toddler has heard these words so many times, that we can almost hear it in our sleep. (Parents, I can almost see you chuckling as you read this and nod your heads.)
From tying their own shoes, to cleaning themselves after they use the restroom, to dressing themselves, the list of tasks that these tiny, uncoordinated humans want to accomplish independently is quite extensive. Unless we are in a hurry, we see the majority of these autonomous requests as a good thing.
That is, of course, until it is something dangerous. Then we become far less open to leaving them to discover it on their own. Though our little adventurers would love to help us cut the vegetables, start the gas grill, or sew a patch on their ripped pants, we know better than to just hand them over the knife, lighter, or sewing needle. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Kids at this age are just doing their best to figure out the environment around them, but you, oh parent, are much wiser and more skilled than your spring chicken. Over time, you have developed knowledge and wisdom to do things the right way, the safe way, the efficient way. When they are insistent on wanting to do it on their own, you just want to help guide them to the path of least resistance.
But good luck trying to get them to understand that.
What if I was to tell you that this is exactly how God is with us? If God is all-knowing and all-wise, then there isn’t any person, no matter how old or wise they are, that is beyond the need for God’s instruction and guidance. Yet most people act as if they are. At their own expense.
The world we live in is full of adult-sized toddlers. People who, through their actions, are telling God, “I don’t need your help! I can do it myself!”
This happens in two ways. The first, are those people that are attempting to accomplish God’s instruction and guidance on their own willpower and methods. They are, in a sense, trying to earn merit with God through their actions. But their methods will always fall short. God is morally perfect, and therefore the standard — if we insist on doing it ourselves — is moral perfection. On our own, we will all fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10, Isaiah 64:6).
Have you ever had a 3-year-old attempt to help you paint, or pour themselves a glass of milk? The results were less than satisfactory, correct? Simple tasks to you, but your kiddo was unable to meet your standards.
Now compare that to God’s perfect moral standard, and our attempts to earn his favor on our own, without his help. Do you see the problem here?
The other kind of people are those who don’t even bother to pay any attention to God’s instruction or guidance. They think that God’s grace gives them a free pass to sin whenever they want, or else they are indifferent to God’s desire for a relationship with them. The difficulty for these people is that it is abundantly clear that the evidence of true salvation is a transformed life (James 2:14–19, Ephesians 2:10, John 14:21, John 14:23–24). Good works do not come before salvation, but for anyone who is saved, good works will certainly follow salvation.
Have you ever had a 3-year-old ignore your commands to not run in the street without looking, or to not stick their fingers through the neighbor’s fence with the aggressive dog? This stirred righteous anger in you didn’t it? After all, you only wanted their protection and what’s best for them.
Now compare that feeling you’ve had to all the times you have blatantly ignored or shunned God’s will for your life. See the problem here?
Whether you have proudly attempted to follow God’s instruction without his help, or have simply ignored it all together, we have all acted like adult-sized toddlers. The truth boils down to our deep-seated need to be in control of our lives. To seek self-salvation.
There is only one way to remedy this: give up control.
There are many of us who have yet to taste what the true freedom is that is found in Christ. You want ultimate peace, joy and purpose? Then give the reins over to the only one who actually knows what he is doing. In relinquishing control, you will strangely find the freedom you were looking for all along.