If you’ve ever had a 2-year-old or dealt with a 2-year-old, then you understand the vital importance of helping move this little terror – oh, excuse me, I meant to write precious one – firmly from his “little kingdom of one” (Paul David Tripp) to being a member of something larger than self. Boundaries and loving discipline teach these little ones that their lives are part of bigger communities – families, schools, cities and towns, states, a nation and the world.
Imagine a world of 2-year-olds. There is an innate selfishness in each of us, but we tend to think of the 2-year-old as the best example of its worst extremes. As the terrible twos are transformed by boundaries and loving discipline, they become more aware that they are not an island unto themselves but one small part of the larger world.
Boundaries and discipline are not always pleasant. I remember my spankings, my restrictions and all the “you should know better” statements that came at me in my formative years. Sometimes still, I can feel their sting, but I also know these unpleasant and painful approaches helped me mature into the adult I am today. When I feel their sting, I remind myself once again that these pains had a purpose.
Thus begs the question: Does the pain in your life have a purpose? Does mine? It’s an age-old interrogative that begs an answer. It’s not the “why do good people suffer” question. It’s the “why does anyone suffer” query, and it is universal. Is there a purpose to it? How can I make it through the difficulties that come my way? How do I perceive suffering in my own life?
Is there one answer to the multiple musings or are there various aspects that we need to consider? I suggest it is part two of this question.
Few men will discuss breast cancer if they have had it. Thurston, before his biopsy, prayed this prayer: “Thy will be done, O Lord.” Now, did God “make” Thurston have breast cancer? I don’t believe that, but I firmly believe that God used Thurston’s experience to teach him to share his story and his faith. Not afraid or embarrassed to discuss it, he embraced it and used his symptoms, diagnosis, surgery and treatment to bring male breast cancer to the forefront. Breast cancer, though painful and challenging, transformed him for greater purposes.
When Deion Sanders, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, won the Super Bowl in 1990, he described the pinnacle of his athletic accomplishments as being empty. It wasn’t what he thought it would be. He buried himself in outward rewards – a Lamborghini, jewelry, gadgets, whatever he thought might fill the void in his life. “Neon Deion,” an athlete that the world admired – the only athlete to ever play in the Super Bowl and the World Series in the same year – was broken. Winning the Super Bowl, for Sanders, was an awakening, and it was anything but celebratory. It was painful.
So who or what changed Thurston and Deion? It was God and the transformative grace he willingly lavishes on those who receive his son, Jesus Christ, as the atonement for their sin. First acknowledging that we all have hearts bent toward sinning – in its primary form, a worship of self – God was, is and always will be the original transformer. He loves us “2-year-olds” but then provides the boundaries and loving discipline that changes us, even if they feel like spankings, restrictions and “you should know better” moments.
The original transformer is committed to moving us beyond our 2-year-old selves. He teaches us a better way and is patient and present as we learn it.