The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the LORD are sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is pure,
the ordinances of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold;
more than much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
We had to lay down a little bit of the law tonight. Ainsley, our two year-old, has developed a problem going to sleep. She knows it's bedtime or naptime; what's at issue is doing it by herself. She will spend several minutes before, during and after getting ready asking, "Mommy sleep? Mommy sleep? Daddy sleep? Daddy sleep?" As we're brushing teeth. As we're changing diapers. As we're putting on pajamas. As we're finding the pacifier and blankie. As we're reading a book. As we're praying. And most definitely when Mommy or Daddy turn out the light and leave the room.
We tried some different tricks to put off what had to happen tonight. The first and most obvious solution was one of us lying in bed with her until she fell asleep. But that only works for a while, especially if she keeps checking every thirty seconds or so to see if you're still there. The next solution was the one Kristin tried: she started next to the bed, then scooted over by the dresser, then just inside the door, then slipped through the door when it sounded like Ainsley was asleep. But that takes fifteen minutes or more, and it doesn't work, either - the minute she rolls over and we're not there, the tears resume and the cry, "Mommy sleep? Daddy sleep?" starts up all over again. So, in comes Daddy with a deal: I'll sit here and read a magazine with my book light until you go to sleep, Ainsley. Bet you can guess how that one ended up.
The issue isn't helping her get to sleep. That's never been a problem. We're pretty sure it's a control thing, and also a security thing, neither of which we will be solving by giving in to her demands. So, tonight we had to lay down the law: no, Mommy & Daddy will be sleeping in our bed, and Ainsley will sleep in hers by herself.
You can imagine the crying that followed the announcement. Anyone who's had children (and probably the overwhelming majority of you who haven't) knows the heart-wrenching feeling you get, knowing that you're doing the right thing but causing your child pain at the same time. It's not as if we want Ainsley to cry, or that we're just too busy to be bothered with properly helping her sleep. It's a health issue: if she can't sleep by herself now, it will just get worse as the days and weeks go by. Better to be strong and set boundaries for her now before things get out of hand.
Sweeter than honey, this law? Hardly seems like it to Ainsley tonight. She is asleep now, but it took some trying on our part. It's not easy explaining to a toddler why you won't snuggle up and hold her until she falls asleep. But it is definitely for her health and welfare. She will need us to hold to this law to help her become a stronger, more capable person - we would be undercutting her growth if we gave in to her demands in the interest of short-term convenience.
This is how the law functions properly in its civil form: it is a restraint intended to foster wholeness among God's people. It is indeed sweet for us to think that because we laid down the law, our little girl will grow up more self-confident, more capable, just as it is sweet to think that because we keep our speed under 35 in the city, we'll be less likely to cause accidents and possibly harm someone or even kill them.
It is also important, though, to remember who it is that holds the law, and to what end. Our love for Ainsley is not based on how well she honors her bedtime, and the next time she's sick, we'll be right there with her, holding buckets or tissues or whatever she needs to heal her illness. In the same way, God puts aside the law when it is salvation at stake - and for that we should be as happy as a sick child who knows her parents will do anything, even risk getting the same illness, for her sake.
So, it's bedtime here in the Johnson house. Our children are sweetly slumbering, and we, the givers of the law, will soon check on them before retiring ourselves. Here, then, is one final difference. The One who watches over our whole household, and yours, too, makes a final promise, a decree, if you will, to neither slumber nor sleep. That decree is indeed true and righteous, sweeter than honey and more precious than gold, and we are blessed to live underneath such promises.