By: Ashley Stewart
I have a theory – and as all theories go – it is not exactly provable: We are all born flawed. (You were expecting something novel?!?) We are all born flawed in individually specific ways. Which means that each of us spends our lifetime encountering/overcoming/succumbing to those same flaws a million different ways.
Here is my experiential, observable – yet extremely limited – data:
I have been a parent – for all of eight years – and taken three children through the stage deemed “the terrible twos” by our esteemed American culture. Now, the terrible twos are really something glorious – it is the first time a human life is able to express individuality and personality beyond its requirements for the basic necessities. I think we give it such a negative moniker because it is often also the first time that parents realize that, despite all the attention they have lavished for the last year and a half, their infant actually has a different –conflicting- individuality and personality than them.
During the terrible twos, a parents’ responsibilities change from just supplying needs for a young life, to also providing discipline; and by discipline, I mean, setting boundaries. Just because my 18-month-old wants to rip all the pages out of the books on my friend’s bookshelf, doesn’t mean he gets to…Or when he wants to run across the street in oncoming traffic, or put my telephone in the toilet, or bite another child…
So a child screams through the terrible twos each time his individuality is challenged, until some sort of ability to understand cause-and-effect emerges. Eventually, most of these primary lessons are learned, and by the age of 5 or so, a child moves on to more complex issues, like algebraic equations and 18th century French poetry (he he).
Yet, it has been my experience that one or two of these primary lessons don’t seem to take, and they are different lessons for each person. I remember one morning vividly: a pretty common occurrence – a sibling argument – but to me as an insider, it offered so much insight.
My 5-year-old snatched a toy from my 3-year-old, firmly expressing her opinion that it was her turn …to which the 3-year-old, asked me for help, but didn’t try to snatch the toy back on his own. When I intervened, the 5-year-old promptly returned the toy, and (according to my directions) asked for a turn with the toy about two minutes later. At this point, the 3-year-old refused to give up the toy on his own volition, despite knowing that there would be parental consequences…
The 5-year-old STILL hadn’t learned that it was wrong to take from another person just because she wanted something, even though she had heard for three years that it was incorrect behavior. The 3-year-old HAD learned, though he had only had lessons for one year. It is now three years after this event (and many, many, many more like it), and, I think these two children have the same tendencies.
The broader implication from this data: just because we are born a certain way, doesn’t mean that way is right. Being born flawed does mean you have a certain battle ahead of you, but it doesn’t mean you have to fail every lesson. (The 5-now-8-year old very rarely snatches from her 18-month-old brother, unless she is afraid for his safety.)
During the terrible twos, I, the parent, am the cultural setting; I choose for my children what is right and wrong. But, I too am just a human with my own tendencies of injustice, partiality, insecurities, anger and ingratitude. I may, by example, by neglect, or by ignorance allow my children to revel in some tendencies that aren’t “right.” Hence, of course, the intermingling of nature and nurture.
So, now, as I raise these children, I think, it is my responsibility to give them a knowledge of what is universally right. No, none of us will be perfect, but we will know who can make us perfect…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25
Ashley Stewart, currently toting around 25 extra pounds with the impending birth of baby #4, lives in Paris France, where she is almost able to participate in daily life by practicing her broken French in a Southern drawl. Her marriage to Caleb Stewart for the last 18 years has provided her with a wealth of adventures. She holds degrees in law, history, political science, international policy, and ministry, yet still wonders if bio-chemistry would have been a more suitable field(??). She spent ten years in Washington, D.C. as a member of Capital City Church.
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