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?