As some may know, we have been battling the ugly monster that is called potty training with my son for over a year now. It has been over a year of scheming, planning, praying, begging, and trying method after method praying that this time it will take. This time something will work and our struggle will end. It took over a year to achieve half of the potty training but the other half has yet to come. We have figured out a way to minimize the clean up and the mess but when he chose to purposely go in his pants a month or so ago, my anger and frustration built up from the past year came rising to the surface.
For hours after the “accident” I was fuming. I found myself walking around my yard talking to God… more like yelling at God and telling Him what I will and won’t allow when it comes to this area of potty training (luckily we live on 3 acres of land). I started to wonder if it’s our fault as parents – maybe we are the problem. Maybe we just need to be tough and somehow make him poop on the potty – allow him no other option.
But the still small voice in my head said…”You tried that – remember?” Yes I do remember. I decided I was going to use his fall break and give him no other option but to poop on the potty. We would stay home and only work on pooping on the potty all the while luring him with time with friends if he would poop on the potty. What resulted from my efforts was nothing short of a disaster. We had days of withholding and then multiple “accidents” that led to a clashing of wills and emotions that left us both in tears. I remember I was talking to my dear friend asking her for prayer but telling her that I was done. I would not accept anything other than success in this area. I could not clean one more poopy pull up – I was done. She gently responded with “Sue, you need to not care – if you calm down emotionally he will calm down.” She of course knew the frustration I was feeling but was giving sound advice based on experiences she had with her own children. She said that she would be praying for me and praying that God would change my heart. Well after multiple attempts and a joint effort between my husband and I we realized “it” was not going to happen. You can lead a boy to poop on the potty but you can’t make him poop on the potty.
But it was during this time that God did a miracle in my heart. By the end of that week, I was completely at peace with the results of our efforts. For the first time in over a year, I stopped trying to make my son poop on the potty. I entrusted it to God and my heart finally found peace in this area of my life. Did my son magically poop on the potty after I “let go” and entrusted in to God? No, the result of what I entrusted to God did not change but my heart did.
That happened almost 7 months ago. But I think as time has gone on and my son quickly approaches his next birthday, I have started to panic. I have slowly been shifting the responsibility from God to me. Surely there must be something I need to be doing to make this happen. And as I have shifted my focus from God to the desired outcome of potty training, my peace fades and my rest dissipates. Last month’s “accident” reminded me that I have stopped entrusting my son and his fear to God – I have simply just forgotten about it. We have finally found a good rhythm that makes our current reality tolerable so when he disrupted our rhythm, I quickly realized that I am still not ok with the idea of my son not pooping on the potty. It is here where the fear starts to set in.
But what I feel God whispering to my heart, is “Trust me and surrender your desires for yourself and your son at my feet.” What I realized is that when I become so worried about achieving the ultimate outcome of pooping on the potty, I no longer walk alongside my son at his level. I no longer try to see things from his eyes and I only focus on achieving the goal I had set out for him (that ultimately benefits me).
During this winter my son has developed a rather large fear of the dark. For months he needed us to sleep in his room until he fell asleep and he would often wake throughout the night complaining that he is scared of the dark. Initially I focused so much on making him go to sleep (preferably without us) that I did not take the time to see him and see his fears. I was so pre-occupied with my agenda that I forgot to stoop down to his level and look in his eyes and love him through the fear. And so I would react and then he would react and we would volley back and forth until both of us were tired enough to give up. Luckily, God gave me a partner in parenting and my husband would stop and look at the condition of my son before he made a plan of action. He would gently remind us that we need to love our son through the fear.
I am reminded of 1 John 4:18 that reads…
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Of course we don’t have perfect love that can drive out our sons fears or anyone’s fears but we can yield to the Spirit that lives in us as Christians and allow God’s love to pour through us and out to those around us. It is only when we yield to Jesus that He can then pour out the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control [restraint]; against such things there is no law.
Over these past few months I have been reminded that I cannot produce these things in my life by my own strength- my flesh is not capable. Dottie Connor Bingham talks of this very struggle in one of the lessons of Gracestoration called The Lion/Lamb Card. She uses a lion to describe our flesh nature and a lamb to describe Jesus and His Spirit that lives inside of us. We so often ask God to help us be more loving, more patient, more kind, more gentle, etc. but the flaw in this thinking is that we are asking our flesh nature to produce lamb like qualities. Oh we try to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives but after a few minutes of trying, our lion comes out roaring and we feel like we have failed yet again. Matthew 26:41 speaks of this very phenomenon:
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I have been wanting to show my son true love and patience and gentleness in this area of potty training. I would do well maybe for a few minutes and then I would crack and my lion would come out roaring ready to devour anyone in my wake. Through this lesson in Gracestoration, I have learned that instead of asking God to help me display the fruit of the Spirit, I need to yield myself to Him and step out of His way so that He can then impart His love, His joy, His peace, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control into my heart. But it is only when I yield or give way to Him that He can replace my flesh like qualities with His lamb like qualities.
The cry of my heart has been, “God allow me to yield to you – get me out of your way. Give me your love and patience for my son, especially in this area of potty training because I do not have it.” Looking back now, I suppose I should be thankful that my son had an “accident” last month. Because it reminded me to entrust my son and his fear of pooping on the potty to God and shift the responsibility for it to God. All I need to do is to continue to entrust it to God and yield to Him on a continual basis. As I yield to Him, He can give me the love, patience, and gentleness that my son needs…especially in this area of potty training.
Recently through some Godly counsel, my husband and I have decided to try to lead our son to poop on the potty once again. But this time, I want it to look different on me. I want to daily yield my flesh to God’s Spirit and I want to daily pray that God will fill my son with courage and the ability to poop on the potty. And if after all of this he still refuses to poop on the potty I want my heart to be at peace knowing that I can trust my God regardless of the outcome.
I never thought I’d be on my knees so many times over this issue but I’m realizing that this is another area where God is using circumstances to remind me to daily depend on Him for everything. Yield to Him in all things…even when trying to teach my children the basic skills in life… like pooping on the potty.
How about you? Is there an area where you are realizing you need to continually entrust the outcome to God and yield to Him and His Spirit?