Ten months ago, I was an assistant editor for a magazine I fiercely loved and firmly believed in.
In a swirl of happenings, God mercifully rerouted my dreams and plans and, nine months ago, I started nannying two kids that I fiercely love and firmly believe in.
My days are spent with a 3 year old and 15 month old and my nights typically end with my clothes and hair being hugged by pancake syrup, paint, peanut butter, and an assorted sprinkling of crumbs and stickers.
Spotify now constantly asks bizarre questions like, “Do you want to jump back into your Thomas the Train playlist?” and “Explore other titles similar to Puppy Dog Pals and Disney Favorites,” and the backseat of my car is now accessorized with children’s car seats and a few rogue toys. The bottom line: life is a lot different than it was nine months ago.
And though I aspire to be a nanny like Mary Poppins, this profession highlights less of the magical spoonful-of-sugar moments and more of my weaknesses and acute need for a Helper of my own.
Here are five more things I’ve learned during the last nine months of nannying.
ONE. I am not God
My patience has a limit. My endurance has an expiration date. My grace is not sufficient.
Sometimes when the babies are crying, I don’t understand. I don’t know what they need most or what the most helpful response will be. I don’t know how to best reflect Christ in certain situations and my vision is limited. If I’m in another room, it’s not guaranteed I know what they’re doing and if they get in a fight, I don’t always know who started it or how to demonstrate the Gospel in handling it.
I get tired. I get frustrated. I have to apologize. I need the support of others. I need grace to give grace.
All of these things are intentional. Each preaches the sermon that I am not enough for this job or this life: I need a Rescuer. I need wisdom. I need forgiveness. I need Jesus. And God has graciously met the need (Psalm 121:2, Acts 17:25, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
TWO. The temptation to feed on lesser things starts early.
Breakfast is served. Before him sits a feast of fruit and French toast sticks, sausage and juice, and he would rather gnaw on his teether shaped like bacon. “The real stuff is in front of you, bro,” I say to him with a laugh. Still the hungry boy cries as I take the plastic food-imposter away. As the tears fall, instead of reaching for what is on his plate, he shoves his hands in his mouth and begins to chew on his fingers.
How often I am content to short-circuit joy by substituting good for the great, imitations for the real thing, and feeding on temporary crumbs when the eternal feast is offered.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken Me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
The good news for those in Christ is that we can now discard our quest for satisfaction and instead live satisfied in Him, the One whose death directly reconciles our thirsty hearts to the Fountain of Life (John 4:13-14).
THREE. We hate the things meant to protect us.
“Don’t put that in your mouth.”
“No ma’am, you’re not allowed to touch that—it will hurt you.”
“Those are there to keep you safe, don’t take them off.”
I repeat different versions of the above on a regular basis.
Just as they are wired to resist what they most need, the children loathe what’s designed to protect because their understanding is limited. Whether it be rules, authority, obedience, shots, car seats, or confinement of any kind, they don’t see the big picture like we do so they cannot make sense of how any of those things can actually be working for their good, and telling them no seems only to heighten their desire to refuse.
We live in an upside down world and we’re born playing our parts well. From the fall, sin fractured what God made whole and we now naturally bend away from protection and instead have an illogical desire to go to electrical outlets, play with sharp objects, and find our hope, security, rest, and worth in anything other than Jesus Christ. When protection doesn’t look like our preference, rebellion and resistance flares. But freedom comes only in yielding to the goodness of God’s will and way.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16:2)
FOUR. We trust in what we can see.
I go to the bathroom behind a closed door for 60 seconds and I might as well have abandoned the children for six years in a famine. I tell them, “I’m going to take the trash out, I’ll be right back,” and you’d think I was escaping to burn their toys.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve never said, “I’m coming right back,” and then leave for the rest of the day. If I say I’m coming back, I do it. Right then. They have no reason to doubt my sincerity but their faith reaches only as far as their vision. Thanks to sin, it’s part of their human makeup and it’s part of mine. Yet, unlike the babies, my Caretaker is flawless and eternally faithful. Why should we doubt Him?
However, just as God through His extravagant grace trains and develops our faith to depend on his character and not our eyesight, we must patiently develop trust in our kids. The process of following through on things is part of building their trust, which builds their security and confidence, a process I pray will one day be transferred from trusting me and my word to trusting God and the only Word that will never fail them (Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 30:5, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
FIVE. We all want to be sovereign.
She pushed my hand away. “I can do it—I don’t need help.” This happens often and every time it’s a glimpse into my fallen nature. “No, God, really, I’ve got it this time. I don’t need help.”
We’re all born with the false belief that we are sufficient and can do things on our own. Our aversion to assistance and desire to prove our autonomy and adequacy is in itself a confirmation of our depravity and a signal for our desperate need of a Savior.
We want control. When we don’t have that, we throw fits, scream, hurt others, and demand our sovereignty to be seen and bowed to by all in our self-assigned kingdoms.
Paul Tripp calls this an awe problem.
“This is what sin does to us all. At a deep and often unnoticed level, sin replaces worship of God with worship of self. It replaces submission with self-rule. It replaces gratitude with demands for more. It replaces faith with self-reliance. It replaces vertical joy with horizontal envy. It replaces a rest in God’s sovereignty with a quest for personal control. We live for our glory. We set up our rules. We ask others to serve our agenda.” (Paul David Tripp, Awe)
Only when our hearts are captured by a glory bigger than our own will we bow the knee to the one true God and cease demanding others bow to us.
During the last nine months, the heart exposure that is nannying has induced both repentance and worship while also serving as a reminder that children can understand far more than most give them credit.
We have a tendency to believe toddlers are too small to understand deep concepts or doctrinal teachings but we do so wrongly and in ignorance. To paraphrase my boyfriend: the only ones with a comprehension problem are those of us who don’t challenge them. Their brains may still be developing but they are capable of holding eternal truths and their hearts are vacuums that will hungrily absorb the richness of the Gospel.
It is only by grace that anyone grows into the Gospel. But, parents and caretakers, may we take seriously our role as heart-feeders and remember that as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, so we must speak it to our children, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
May we be continually feeding on the Word of Life in order to bring others, including our tiniest sheep, to the feast.