My four-year-old sucks her thumb. She’s been doing it since her bitty babe days. At first her dad and I thought it was sweet, and we appreciated the thumb’s magical soothing properties. But now we’re staring down a fortune in orthodontist bills and, well, that thumb has got to go.
My daughter knows this.
And she doesn’t like it.
“Momma, can I suck my thumb? I’m kind of tired.” She looped an arm around my leg, looked up at my face and batted her puppy eyes. I blew a deep sigh. Because I hear this exact request about a dozen times a day.
Funny how she knows she’s not supposed to suck her thumb, so rather than sneaking around or openly defying my expectations, she simply asks permission. Heck, I figure that’s half the battle won.
Maybe I’m a softie, but I truly believe that telling my daughter to give up her thumb is like asking a smoker to quit cold turkey. So right now I’m offering her a transition period, like a nicotine patch, where she’s allowed to suck her thumb only when she’s going to sleep.
Therefore, the question is always, “MommacanIsuckmythumbImkindoftired.”
When I say no, she throws fits. Naturally.
When I cave and say okay fine—usually in moments of frustration for the sake of my own sanity, and yes I know that’s weak and ineffective but work with me here, people—she smiles and curls into a ball on the sofa, quiet and content. Temporarily. Because even she knows she is delaying the inevitable.
The thumb is no good anymore. The longer we let it go on, the more damage it will do. It’s just so hard to break the habit.
I wonder—what if we stopped to ask God for permission? Anytime we’re tempted to do something he disapproves, to engage in old habits—what if we turned our eyes to the sky and begged?
God, can I snap at my husband? I’m kind of tired.
Lord, can I hurry my kids and ignore their hearts? I’m kind of on a schedule here.
Heavenly Father, would you mind if I worried incessantly about that thing I cannot change? I know you’ve got it covered, but, right now I’m kind of freaking out. You understand.
What do you think God would say?
Oh, there are plenty of Bible verses granting us clear direction on certain behaviors and attitudes. But I’ve started responding to my daughter with one simple question of my own. And I wonder if God would do the same.
“What do you think?”
“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24).
God gave us free will. Knowing right from wrong and lost from found is an important first step in using that free will wisely. But what if we went beyond the “rules” and considered how our choices affect not just us but other people? How would that change our decisions?
Yes, I might be tired. But that’s not my husband’s fault. He doesn’t deserve my snappishness.
I’m busy and distracted again, yep. But it’s not all about me. I owe my kids my presence.
Here I am, buried in my fears and what if’s. But you, Lord, are working within them and through them and above them for some purpose I cannot see. I know it’s the right choice to trust you. Will you help me?
“Momma, can I suck my thumb? I’m kind of tired.” My daughter lifted her hand to her mouth and waited for my reply.
“What do you think, sweetheart?”
She stood motionless, with her thumb suspended in mid-air, and stared at me for three seconds.
“I’m gonna do it. Thanks, Mom!” And off she ran to the couch, where she curled into her usual snuggle ball and sucked away.
What was I saying about free will? It may take my daughter some growing-up years to really get the hang of putting other people’s needs first—i.e., her parents’ savings account, which would prefer not to go broke for braces. But then I’m 40 years old and I still haven’t completely figured out how to put other people’s needs first, either. Have you?
Ask God for permission. Now that’s a clever place to start. Because, unlike my daughter’s thumb habit, stopping to talk with the Lord Almighty before making a dumb move could very well prevent the dumb move from happening. Who wants to disappoint God, right?
What a simple formula for Christian living. It just might change the world.
Will you join me?
Joanne Viola says
Love your simple formula >> Stop. Pray. Obey. Many a heartache & disappointment would surely be avoided! Blessings!
Ah, so true, Joanne! If only we actually remembered to stop/pray/obey before we act. 😉
I love this. I might have to print this as a friendly reminder
Thank you for reading, Missi! I’m so glad it encouraged you.
Andrea Mitchael says
I love your blog, Becky! You’ve done such a beautiful job sharing on those hard-to-figure-out situations. I think this applies to when I crave a sweet snack or a calm show to watch. It is not bad entirely in itself, it’s not beneficial in too many levels — but it can definitely become a sin (gluttony or slothfulness) if it becomes out of control. I love that God has given us free will — after all, forced love isn’t true love, right? Thank you for sharing your thoughts and linking up!
Thank you so much for joining me here, Andrea! What an encouragement you are to me today! And I agree… those little decisions can add up to habits. Yet free will is a gift. Blessings to you and your household!
So glad you joined us today! Your posts never fail to encourage me, and I love sharing your blog with other people!
Thank you for inviting me! I always enjoy “seeing” and hearing from you!
After reading your post it really made me think. I should not do things if I need to ask for permission because I would be upsetting the Lord. I want to do things that glorify him and obey him!! Thank you this is want I needed
Chelsea @ thewilliamsjourney1.blogspot.com
Thank you for reading, Chelsea!
SOOO good! I have a six, four, and two year old. I am definitely going to try doing this! Thanks for linking up with us as well! 🙂 http://www.sarahefrazer.com
I loved linking up with you ladies! Thank YOU!
Her asking is a good step! If I think about something and ask God’s permission first… wow, that would change things. This is really hitting me today. Thank you.
Hugs to you, Shell!
Evanthia of merelymothers says
I remember reading years ago that “Christian parenting” meant teaching our kids that their ONE job in the household is to be obedient. At the time, it struck me as strange to put such emphasis on compliance when we want to raise our children to be free-thinkers and sometimes even rule-breakers. But four years into parenting, I totally, TOTALLY get it.
It’s not about brain-washing our kids or breaking their spirits, but about teaching them to listen to that little voice inside that helps them make good choices, whether that’s mom’s voice or God’s voice. What an interesting topic! Thanks, Becky!
You’re right, Evie – not breaking their spirits but building them up and teaching them to listen to the Spirit above their own sin nature. I need to work on this myself!
Erica Layne says
So beautiful, as always.
(Btw, you must get ah-ha moments like daily!)
I do! Actually I look for them, so… 😉
Katie @ Wonderfully Made says
I love this post, Becky. What a great perspective!
Okay, I have to admit, I was a long-time “thumb-sucker.” I did it until I was in 5th grade! Yep! That’s right! I didn’t do it whenever anyone was watching, mind you! I always found ways to do it on the sly. And it wasn’t until the fear of being seen by my peers came into play that I finally decided it wasn’t for me. Also, I never had braces and do still have something of an overbite, but I tell ya, it really didn’t mess my teeth up all that bad. I just think it’s great that your daughter is open enough with you to ask your permission and to even disregard it! ha! Yes, God is my “go-to” now for any need for security and soothing. He trumps that silly thumb big time! Hugs to you, Becky! And pray for me and my blog. I’ve been plagued with technical issues all day and haven’t been able to resolve them. So I figure gathering prayer support will blow “Google or Bluehost support” out of the water! 😉
How are things today? I prayed as soon as I read this last night! (And I’m just now catching up on replies!) So… fifth grade, huh? Oddly, that encourages me, my friend! Hugs to you!
Becky, this was a great post. Just wanted to drop a line and let you know that I found myself using your mantra, “Stop.Pray.Obey,” in the car on my way to p/u our daughter from kindergarten just yesterday! Thanks 🙂
This blesses me more than I can say, JoLynn! Thank you so much for stopping by to tell me!
Thought-provoking and beautifully said.
Thank you for reading, Gayle!