Growing Pains

Written April 12, 2011…

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”   

Romans 5:3-4

Growing up hurts. 

Yesterday Isaiah and I decided it was time to throw away his beloved “night nights”.  Though he never used pacifiers during the day, for the past 2 1/2 years he has been dependent upon one (or, when he was a baby, two or three) to fall asleep.  Quite honestly I had been dreading this day and terrified of breaking him of this habit.  His “night night” was his comfort item.  He was never attached to a blanket or stuffed animal or anything else for bedtime…but his “night night”.  To him it wasn’t just a pacifier; it was a symbol of comfort, safety, and security.  I knew there were emotions attached to it and I wanted to be sure that his little heart could handle giving it up.

After tackling the move to a “big boy bed” and conquering potty training, we knew losing the pacifier was the next logical step into leaving “babyhood”.  This last step, however, was especially difficult for me (which is why it was last on my list to tackle).  My plan 6 months ago was for Isaiah to simply give up his pacifiers in March when the new baby came, as a big brother gift to his new sibling.  Obviously my plans were changed and we needed to find a new game plan.   But that hurt.  My heart broke with reminders of what we lost…and that my baby boy wasn’t a baby any more.

Even though these “big boy” transitions have been bittersweet, it really has been a joy walking Isaiah through this growing up process.  Everything is new and exciting.  It’s a blast watching him constantly learning and changing and I’ve LOVED this phase of motherhood.  Yesterday we planned a “big boy celebration” (which he yelled randomly throughout the day with his hands in the air and a huge smile on his face).  He threw his pacifiers in the garbage (okay…I pulled one out later to keep for sentimental value per the request of my sweet husband) and he was excited about the rewards that were coming later.

When Adam came home from work we headed first to the toy store to pick out his very own space shuttle (his most recent obsession) as a reward for throwing away his “night nights”.  He requested pizza for dinner, which was hard sell for his daddy 😉 and rode the train at the mall.  By the way, who knew so much pure joy could be conjured up by riding around in circles?

On the way home, Isaiah kept saying that he wasn’t tired and didn’t need to go to bed.  Though he didn’t say it, I think he was afraid to go to sleep without his comfort companion of 2 1/2 years.  We did bed time as usual, and though he kept looking up at the dresser (where his “night night” stayed during the day) with sad eyes, he never complained or cried or asked for me to find it.  I was so proud of him as he really was determined to tackle this necessary hurdle in becoming a big boy, even though he didn’t completely understand.

After praying together, he got into bed, but didn’t want to lay down or close his eyes.  I did my best to comfort him, to remind him to be brave.  He laid down on his pillow then I said good night and closed the door.  Still, I couldn’t stay away from the soft whimpering I heard coming from his room.  He was confused.  He was scared.  Not fighting or complaining, but struggling to understand.  I was so afraid he felt like he was being punished.  I wanted to give in so badly.  I cried with him.  I hurt with him.  My heart broke with his.  I hated seeing him scared.  I was so tempted to run and find the pacifier I had saved and rescue my precious boy from his suffering.  Though I knew I couldn’t give in because this pain was necessary for him to grow, I chose to sit down next to him and try to help him relax.

As I gently rubbed his back and sang to him with tears streaming down my face, my Heavenly Father reminded me of His faithfulness in my life.  I remembered those nights that I just didn’t want to close my eyes for fear of painful memories or difficult emotions.  The nights when I softly wept while Adam had to read Scripture our loud or sing hymns to me because it was the only way I could fall asleep.  There at the side of my little boy’s bed, God reminded me that He WAS and IS with me on those difficult nights.  Weeping with me.  Singing over me.  Promising not to leave.  Promising that the pain WILL be worth it. 

I thought of the crazy intense love I felt for my son at that moment.  How badly I wanted to end his “suffering”, but knowing that just giving him what he wanted would, at that point, do him more harm than good.  What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t foster growth?  I felt like I caught just a glimpse of my Father’s crazy love for me.  A love that is so deep, so passionate, that it does what’s necessary for me to grow and mature…but also aches along with me throughout the process.  A love that asks me to share in suffering, so that through Christ I can also share abundantly in comfort, too (2 Corinthians 1:5).  God reminded me that I, like Isaiah, can right now only partially understand the road that we’ve been asked to walk.  I need to persevere so that as I reach maturity things will become clearer (James 1:3-5).  I wasn’t being punished.  I was lovingly being asked to grow.

When Isaiah used his pacifier, he’d often rub his hand across it as he fell asleep.  As I watched my sweet little boy close his eyes and drift off to sleep last night, I smiled as I noticed his hand gently covering his mouth.  He had loosened his grip on his beloved “night night”, but old habits die hard.  God continues to ask me to loosen my grip on my control, my comfort, my safety, my desires for my life.  Something that I longed for and cherished is missing, no longer in my grasp.  My heart remembers and it still aches.  Still, I don’t have to demand control or insist that I’m entitled to something.  I know a greater reward, an incredible celebration IS coming.  I simply have to wait for it.

Isaiah slept well last night.  I didn’t relieve his suffering, but I gave him more of myself.

My attention. 

My touch. 

My voice. 

My love. 

I proved myself faithful to him. 

I’m increasingly thankful for a God who does the same.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”  James 1:3-4 (from The Message)

“God is glorified by relieving our suffering, and God is also glorified by not relieving our suffering. In either case, God is always seeking to bestow His greatest blessing upon you: Himself.”

Sing of Your unending faithfulness

That knows no doubt or fear

In the face of all that I don’t know yet

Remind of Who You are

Sing over me

Draw me close to rest in Your peace

Sing over me, O sing

You are mighty, You will save

Rejoice over me with singing

You will quiet with Your love

Glory over me with singing

– Bethany Dillon (“Sing Over Me”)

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