The first thing my kids do in the morning is give me a hug because waking up is hard. Sometimes it’s nice to just have someone put their arms around you, rub your back, and get the blood moving. The other morning, my youngest, who just turned five, woke up and came straight for me in his little alphabet pajamas. He curled up in my lap and I rubbed his back.
I teased him that his legs had gotten longer since the night before. We have a running joke between the two of us that he’s not allowed to get any bigger. I command him to stop growing, and stay my little boy, and each day, he defiantly inches taller.
“We need to figure this out,” I said. “Pretty soon, you’re going to be taller than me, and I just can’t tolerate any more of my kids getting taller than me. None of you are listening!”
He giggled at my joke, and said, “Mommy! We can’t control how we grow! I can’t help it! God just makes us grow! he said. “I didn’t do anything!”
With six kids, oftentimes I feel like managing their growth fills the majority of my hours. Actually, it’s not accurate to say “managing” their growth, rather: “keeping up with their growth” or “holding on for dear life.”
Children don’t worry about whether or not they will grow. They expect it. They wait for it with anticipation.
Every fall, we bring out the tubs of old clothes, go through them all, and see what will fit for winter. Finding shoes for them all, pants that might last a few months, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, washing dishes, getting them haircuts, clipping fingernails – all of these tasks are aimed at keeping up with their never ending growth. One time, when my oldest son was about 12 years old, I had hunted down and purchased a fall/winter wardrobe for him in September: 10 shirts and four pants, a new pair of shoes, snow boots, new snow pants, and a winter jacket. I thought each item had plenty of growing space for them to last him until spring. He outgrew them all by October. I literally cried. Thankfully, his younger brothers eventually used all the things I had purchased.
I can’t manage my children’s growth. I can only try to keep up. I don’t manage the timing of their growth spurts, I can only rub their legs when they have growing pains. I can measure how tall they’re getting and marvel at it. I can forbid them, in vain, to get any taller. But as they keep telling me, not even they can direct their growth.
“I can’t help it! God just makes us grow! he said. “I didn’t do anything!”
It’s funny with our knowledge of physical growth that we still think it will be different for our spiritual lives. We think that we should manage our sanctification or the sanctification of others.
You may say, “but you make your kids eat their vegetables, and go to bed!” My children grumble about eating their vegetables. As a parent, I’ve learned that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. To withhold food will starve them, but when there is food in front of them, they won’t starve. Their design to grow always overcomes any hunger strike. Children don’t worry about whether or not they will grow. They expect it. They wait for it with anticipation. They complain it’s taking too long. But they know they don’t control it. They may try, but they can’t force it, rush it, or hurry it along. Growing teaches us patience, like it or not.
As children of God, we are given food. We have attitudes about some of it. Hunger strikes are usually overcome with cyclical seasons of never being full. We take joy from running and playing in the freedom of our days. We devour books, and make friends. We learn how to be kind, and discover we were made for a purpose. But we don’t make ourselves grow. At best, we can reflect on growth in the past, and stand in awe that we didn’t see it coming. Sometimes circumstances grow and mature us, as we grow in understanding of the value of stubborn love, both given to us, and given to others.
But, as any child can tell you, growth comes when you sleep—when you rest. You can’t help it. Psalm 139 says to God, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” What God created, God will grow. We don’t add a few stitches onto his creation.
When I was a new mom, I believed I could micromanage my babies’ development: do these exercises so they will roll over a week before their peers, make sure they have tummy time, practice walking with them. I agonized over their growth, like there was some kind of prize for reaching each stage in record time.
What God created, God will grow. We don’t add a few stitches onto his creation.
Things change with each kid, and you discover no one hands out prizes for reaching a benchmark first, and it all evens out in the end. In fact, by the fourth or fifth kid, my husband noticed I was keeping the eight month old in footie pajamas all day long.
He said, “You know, she’s slipping with the pajamas on. If you let her wear shorts, and let her knees get a grip on the kitchen floor, she’ll crawl today.”
“I know.” I said. “I’m trying to slow her down a bit. She’ll crawl eventually.”
He laughed. I was trying to contain her mobility as long as I could, because life changes drastically when they can move with speed. But we both knew, my reluctance to have a child on the move would only last for so long. Her growth and development would overcome even her footie pajamas.
Because growth just happens. God says he will sanctify. We sometimes fight it, we sometimes encourage it, we sometimes have mixed feelings about it. But it happens – not because we always have the best of attitudes, but because God said he would sanctify us, and he will. His patience is perfect, and his timing is correct. Resting in Christ won’t impede our growth, anymore than sleeping well at night will impede a child’s growth. We don’t work on growing. All we can do is try to keep up with the constant change of growth that will come, like it or not.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (Thess 5:23-24).