Growing up, I heard several adults in my life express that they felt that, to God, all us humans are like cranky, bratty teenagers.
As a teenager myself, that didn’t go over too well, so I thought they were wrong.
Now, as a mother to a wonderful baby girl, I realize they were dead wrong. We are not teenagers in God’s eyes.
That would be giving us way too much credit.
Nope. In the eyes of our incredibly patient Father in Heaven, we are all infants.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Joking aside, this is a frequent topic of conversation in my household, and it’s led my husband and I to reflect on our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Nearly every day, my baby does something that makes me think of how God must see us, and she’s taught me many lessons about what it means to be a child of God.
The more I understand about my relationship to my Heavenly Father, the more peace I enjoy in my life, the easier it is to have faith in His plan, and the happier I am to keep His commandments. I share these lessons with you in the hope that you might also receive some of these same benefits.
Here are a select few of the lessons I’ve learned:
Lesson #1: We Won’t Take the Blessings
… I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
3 Nephi 17:7
We had a really rough journey with breastfeeding, but I was determined to make it work. (Mostly, we just didn’t really have money for formula, and pumping was about as enjoyable as breastfeeding.) It wasn’t until after almost two months (and one really wonderful lactation specialist) that my baby would finally calm down and eat.
For weeks, when I positioned her to eat, she would scream, scratch me, and thrash her head back and forth. Even once she latched and got eating, she would frequently push herself off and start thrashing again. It often took an hour to get her to eat enough to stop screaming and go back to sleep.
Those first couple weeks, I also learned how painful breastfeeding can be, both from having a fighting baby and from being engorged when baby isn’t getting enough milk.
I remember, in the darkest hours of the night, telling her through my tears, “I know you’re hungry. I have so much food for you. Please just take it! It’s right here!”
I realized God must feel this way about us. He has so much to offer. He is full of blessings and wisdom that He is eager to give. The most painful thing to Him must be when we refuse to take the blessings.
I can almost hear Him: “I have the joy and peace of repentance. Just ask for it.” And: “I’ve prepared a wonderful spouse for you. You’ve been praying for him all your life. Please, let him take you on a date.” And: “I know exactly what you should do at this crossroads in your life. Stop panicking and stressing about which way to go. Just listen! Let me tell you what you should do.”
Lesson #2: Ignorant Impatience for Blessings “Coming Right Up”
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam… unless he… becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
At six months, breastfeeding is practically easy! (I mean, trying to use a cover is near impossible since she’s gotten good at grabbing, but who goes anywhere these days anyway?)
However, those moments right before eating are probably when she is worst behaved. Those who have breastfed know that, depending on the clothes you wear and your seating arrangement, it can take a minute to get set up and ready to feed your baby. And that one minute is unbearable for my baby girl! She squirms, whimpers, and sometimes cries.
When she gets fussy like this and looks me in the eye, I believe she thinks I just don’t know what she wants. I imagine her saying, “Hello?! I’m hungry, Mom! What are you even doing? Can you even hear me? Hello? Mom?!”
Then, when I do let her eat, I can see in her face: “You finally got it! Yes! Thank you, Mom.” I have to roll my eyes sometimes.
Even if she does recognize when it’s time to eat, my baby doesn’t currently have the cognitive ability to understand forethought, or what preliminary steps are naturally necessary for her to be able to successfully eat. She doesn’t realize that I’m not ignoring her or taunting her; I’m just getting ready to give her what she wants and needs.
This is just one more parallel to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes, we pray and pray for a certain, necessary blessing: for a spouse, for a better job, for an answer to a doctrinal question. We may think God just isn’t listening, or doesn’t care.
I believe He is listening, and He does care. For those blessings that we truly need, if we ask for them, He is willing to grant them. However, there may be steps that He’s gotta take first.
There are things happening behind the scenes that you are not capable of discerning. We do not have the capacity to understand His level of foresight to know when a blessing is already cooking and coming right up.
Lesson #3: We Are Not Alone, Even if We Think We Are
Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
Nursing wasn’t our only struggle with our baby; she also had a really hard time sleeping. She always slept pretty well at night, but during the day, she wouldn’t sleep unless she was held. Even when she was awake, she was so poorly rested that she rarely could handle being set down.
Finally, right about the time we got breastfeeding down (-ish), I started asking around for tips to get a baby to just go to sleep! Someone suggested I read On Becoming Babywise. It was a very aggravating read, laced with writing errors and a condescending tone to parents who didn’t do things the authors’ way. Still, I was so desperate that I was willing to give it a shot.
It took a lot of work, but now we have the easiest baby in the whole world! She naps three times a day, lets me set her down a lot of the day, and sleeps nine or more hours at night!
One of the biggest—and hardest—game-changers was letting her cry it out when she went down to sleep. For such a little baby, she could really scream, and in a tiny apartment, there was no getting out of earshot. (Sorry to our neighbors!)
As soon as she started acting tired, we would swaddle her up, set her in the bassinet, dim the lights, turn on some white noise, and leave the room. We made sure not to let her cry for more than 10 minutes at a time before going in, checking on her, calming her down, then leaving again. She always eventually fell asleep and later woke up completely happy.
She still sometimes cries when we put her to sleep. I can hear her cries go from confused, to angry, to outraged, to lonely, to resigned, then to sleep.
I wish I could explain to her that I am just outside the door and I can hear every noise in that room. I wish I could explain that this is for her good and that she will wake up happier and healthier for it.
I think we all have felt the moments when we are certain God has completely abandoned us. We pray for Him to comfort us, be with us, rescue us from our situations. Sometimes, we even curse God and blame Him for the challenges that life inevitably brings. We wonder how He could leave us alone.
I testify that God has not left us alone, not really. We may not see Him, but He is just on the other side of the door and He can hear us. He knows when we will need Him most, and He knows when it is better for us to feel alone for a moment to become happier and healthier afterward.
Lesson #4: We Can’t Do Anything—Let Alone Anything Important
… Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.
Babies come into the world completely helpless. They can’t do anything on their own. As you now know, my own baby required extensive training to even learn how to eat or sleep.
My baby is now learning how to grab things, roll over, bite her toys, and crawl. She wears herself out practicing these simple little tasks, and she’s clearly so proud of herself when she finally accomplishes one of them. She has an ExerSaucer, which my husband calls her “work desk.” We joke that it’s her day job.
She’s started enjoying “helping me” do things like play the piano and close the refrigerator door. I suspect she thinks she’s really doing big person things, even if she’s actually making those things a lot harder for me.
But when she does things like play the piano or close the refrigerator door—heck, even when she burps or poops!—we cheer for her! We are genuinely proud of her accomplishments, no matter how small, and we are happy to see her growing and learning.
We are like this, too. All of the important work and activities with which we fill our lives are surely just as basic to our Heavenly Father as rolling over is to us.
Cooking dinner? Graduating with a PhD? Doing actual rocket science? Small.
Setting up cultures and political systems? Changing the world? Discussing philosophy and theology on a personal blog? Cute.
There are even some things of greater importance we can seek to achieve. As a missionary, for instance, I remember feeling so purposeful, like I was really doing work for God. And while, yes, I know I technically was, I acknowledge that I probably don’t have any idea how useless I surely must have been compared to what God could do and did do as He helped me. God was allowing me to contribute to His work.
Regardless of how small our actions, our Father in Heaven is still cheering us on. He wants us to succeed! He loves us, and He is pleased when we learn and do good things.
We all have a Heavenly Father who loves us, no matter how small and childish we are to Him. He knows our ultimate goal to be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” is a high bar. (Matthew 5:48) I hypothesize that the greatest testament to our infancy is when Jesus Christ commands us to “become as a little child”. (3 Nephi 11: 37) If we are all babies, becoming a child would represent a significant amount of growing up.
Let’s Hear it
How else are we like babies? What spiritual lessons have you learned from the babies or children in your life?