Hard-Wired to Run Away

God has been so merciful in giving us ample evidence of our deep, deep need for a Savior, if only we will allow ourselves to “behold the obvious.” For example, I have often found that some of the most profound truths about us as human beings are prominently displayed in the behavior of small children.

For the past seven years, I’ve been providing childcare out of my home for little ones. While I mostly delight in the antics of young children, I’ve often been known to say that no one who spends much time with toddlers can possibly refute the Reformed theological assertion that human beings are utterly and entirely depraved. As we grow up, we just learn to hide it a little better than we did when we were in diapers.

Recently, on an exceptionally hot summer day, when I knew that letting the kids play outside would be tantamount to child abuse – or, at a minimum, sitter abuse – I loaded up my van and took my son and the toddlers I watch to the Columbia Mall Play Place – that particular location in the middle of the building where a walled-off area has been designed to provide a safe, brightly-colored and interesting environment for kids to run off a little steam during a shopping trip with Mom or Dad.

Designed for maximum childish delight – and with safety precautions for toddlers in mind – even the floor is cushioned. It’s a great “indoor play date” during the hot summer months, I’ve found. If I were a kid, I’d be all over that tree-turned-slide, just like my son.

But not everyone appreciates being dropped into a pint-sized version of Eden.

One of the little ones I watch is just over a year old, and her sense of adventure has exploded since recently learning to walk. What I found during this play date of ours was that while the giant spotted fish and the squishy tent were fascinating to her for about five minutes, what she really wanted to do was take her new-found mobility out into the great wide world of Columbia Mall. The vast, unknown dark area outside the safety of the play place drew her attention over and over. The predictable result is that I spent the majority of our “relaxing” time together moving her from the entrance to the play place all the way to the back, so I could watch the other little ones playing while she slowly made her way back to the dangerous entrance.

I gotta hand it to the kid; she never got upset with me or resisted my efforts to keep her safe. She simply tried to undo my work over and over.

I think it was about the 24th time we’d made our trip to the back of the play place when it occurred to me that this was yet another one of those deep truths about the human condition that is mirrored in the lives of our little ones.

God, in His infinite wisdom and love for us, has offered us life abundant within a dark and dangerous world. His Word pretty clearly outlines how we can live within the safe confines of His commandments. He warns us of danger. In the midst of many options that promise excitement but lead to death (Proverbs 14:12), He exhorts us to trust Him and to live out that trust by remaining within the boundaries of the brightly-lit safe place He has created for us.

But we love the darkness! We are incessantly drawn to things that are outside of God’s will for our lives as His beloved creation. We seem to endlessly want whatever God says is dangerous for us. We certainly want sex outside of marriage, despite God’s abundantly-clear warnings (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:13; 1 Corinthians 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Jude 1:7). We want to love ourselves first, not put others first (Philippians 2:1-18, Romans 12). We want to be exalted, not humbled (Matthew 5). We pursue anything that we think will make us happy, refusing to believe that it’s an empty happiness (Jeremiah 2:13).

Even when God, in His mercy, gives us a flash of insight and shows us how close we are to becoming lost – moving us out of the way of danger – we tend to wander stubbornly back. Our tendency to love our sin, in one form or another, has us relentlessly and determinedly toddling toward the EXIT sign…and into danger. Many of us don’t realize how foolish our choices are until we’re out in the middle of the mall, lost and surrounded by people we know we shouldn’t trust.

These days, shared daily readings of the Bible are likely to provoke one or more shakes of the head from me or my husband. Repeated readings of Scripture have enabled both of us to better assess the huge gulf between what God clearly tells His people to do and how often they completely ignore His warnings…and how often we can identify ourselves in those stories. It’s also had the effect of taming my own heart as I increasingly see the truths of God as the unspeakable blessing they were intended to be. Just like my little pigtailed adventurer, as a young woman I incorrectly saw God’s “play place” for my life as “confined” and “restricting.” It was only after several years wandering around lost in the mall that I came to appreciate just how rich and vibrant God’s plan is for our lives.

Matthew 5:17-20
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

John 14:15
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Revelation 2:2-5
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

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