Toddler Love

When an old dog needs to learn new tricks, sometimes it’s the puppies who lead the way. 

My Thursdays belong to my 18-month-old granddaughter Callie. She’s at that curious stage when even the smallest crumb left on the kitchen floor either becomes a tasty treat or a play toy. She often imitates barks from her dogs, tweets from visiting birds, and meows from Sophie the cat. She unconsciously sways to the beat of any music. She came equipped with an innate love for “reading” books aloud, which she shares with her floppy-eared stuffed bunny. 

Last Thursday, I had two questions rubbing against one another in my heart, so I felt a nudge to pay attention to the sweet little teacher God had given me for the day. On one hand, I wondered how willingly I adapt my usual expressions of love to meet the needs of others. On the other hand, I wondered if I ever dropped my walls enough to let others know how I receive love best. Whether we admit it or not, (whether we like it or not) we were all made to connect with each other.

Yes, Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to save us, God’s love continually sustains us, and the power of the Holy Spirit indwells us. Yet in the beginning, God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone”, so He gave Adam someone to serve, hold, affirm, spend time with, and share all the wonders of creation. It wasn’t that God couldn’t provide those things Himself. It wasn’t that He lacked anything. God simply wanted Adam and Eve to enjoy the same kind of fellowship He enjoyed with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

We were not made to live independent of one other. We were made for relationship and community. We were made to be a group of interdependent people who ultimately rely on God for everything. In learning how to humbly love one another, we submit to Him in the process of pruning us to become more like Jesus.  

Thursday, I learned many love lessons by watching my little Callie girl – one who still interacts honestly and innocently. Fortunately, she’s had no reason to build any walls yet, so these are the unguarded moments I noticed: 

  • When Callie’s hungry, she goes to the pantry and points to what she wants.
  • When she’s hurt, she crawls into my lap for some sympathy.
  • Even though she’s often content to play alone, she still wants someone nearby.
  • When she gets tired and cranky, she wants to be held.
  • She laughs when you chase her and giggles when she’s tickled.
  • She gets a thrill out of feeding me more Cheerios than I want.
  • Spontaneous hugs and kisses flow freely and randomly.
  • If you leave the room, she will come find you.

We were made for love. So, when did we get too old to enjoy the world around us? When did we stop letting people know what we want and need? When did our time become so short, our innocent hugs and kisses become so awkward, and our acts, words, and gifts of kindness cause us to feel indebted rather than loved? 

I want to accept love with a childlike heart. I know you do too. Yet, I need to throw out my pride causing me to act childishly by insisting on my own way. Maybe we could all benefit from having some honest communication with those closest to us. When we don’t know how someone receives love best, we can always ask. If they resist answering, we might pay closer attention to the form they seem to revel in. However, when we’re the ones not feeling the love, perhaps it’s because we cause others to struggle with knowing what makes our love tick.

Here lately, the Spirit won’t let me turn loose of these words from the apostle Paul until I learn them. So, allow me to share them with you, and see if they stick like a handprint on your heart.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (Philippians 2:3-5, NLT)

I set out on a mission a couple of years ago to learn how to love others better. I discovered it’s not as hard to learn how to love as it is to find the vast amounts of time, humility, and intentionality it takes to put what I learned into practice. One thing I know for sure, those who love me well have helped God change me for the better for good. I’d like to return that favor.

In the meantime, I’m confident God will use my Thursdays to humble me and change my way of thinking so that this old dog can learn a few new tricks in love and humility. 

Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. Whoever continually humbles himself to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm.”
(Matthew 18:2-4, The Passion Translation) 

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