My youngest daughter, she just turned one, has an unhealthy, or at least unclean, affinity for toilets. (To be fair to her, she also has a love for climbing into the open refrigerator, stealing your hairbrush, the remote control, any cell phone, unplugging the Carbon Monoxide Detector from the wall, eating bugs, just to name a few!) When it comes to toilets, she gets a big kick out of sticking her hand in the water and splashing it around. As if this wasn’t bad enough, it seems not to matter to her whether the water is clean; or, well, let’s just say not clean.
As a parent it’s maddening. I mean, she has all these toys to choose from with which to play. Dozens of dolls and balls. Things that talk and blink and roll and slide. Toys that light and make animal noises and sing and play music. Of course, being conscientious parents, we have supplied many that are educational: teaching shapes, sizes, colors, numbers and the alphabet. She has at her disposal a cornucopia of toys; an endless supply of fun (and educational) entertainment.
However, more than a few times, she has opted (or at least attempted) for the enjoyment of the toilet. I sit and think of all the money it cost to buy these toys and all she really needs is a porcelain playfellow. What does the toilet have after all that all those toys don’t? The toilet doesn’t sing or play music. It doesn’t recite numbers or the ABC’s. I don’t get it! All those dolls with their dresses and pretty hair and shoes and bottles and pacifiers and lifelike sounds, all the toilet does is sit there. But, time after time, she has been caught headed straight for the toilet.
We’ve been forced to take evasive action. We now keep the doors to the bathrooms closed. We make sure the lids on the toilets are down (though she has recently showed some aptness at raising them, at least far enough to stick her arm through the crack). If you go to use the bathroom she wants to tag along and tries her darndest to get close to the toilet. She has almost catlike reflexes. You’re watching her, telling her, stay away from the toilet, and then before you know it, you blink and her hand has found its way to the toilet.
When she is successful in her endeavor, she squeals and laughs and shouts with ecstasy. In those moments her heart is running over with mirth and gladness. I have hardly ever seen her react the same way to one of her many toys, even the ones she enjoys.. Everything else seems to pale in comparison in her eyes to the joy of splashing in toilet water.
All of this reminded me of something that happened many years ago. Long before I was married or had kids of my own, I had volunteered to help out in the nursery at my church one Sunday morning. We had maybe five to six infants in the nursery that Sunday. The nursery workers had put some toys out on the floor and the kids started playing. Before long, however, I noticed one or two of them making a beeline for the diaper genie. All those dirty, smelly diapers and they were attracted to it. Over and over again, we had to pull them away from the disposal and put them back in the middle of the floor where all the toys were. And over and over again, there they would go, back to the diaper genie to try and play with those dirty diapers.
It made quite an impression on me. I remember thinking, what’s wrong with these kids? I just couldn’t understand why anyone, even kids, would seemingly rather play with a bunch of old stinky, dirty diapers than with perfectly good toys. I thought, did I do this sort of thing when I was little? I never did ask my parents; truthfully, I didn’t really want to know the answer.
I did not know then, nor do I really know now with my own daughter, why kids are attracted to such dirty, disgusting things like diaper genies and toilets; but, I do know God has taught me a lesson from these observations.
We as Christians, shamefully, are often times much the same way. No, we don’t head over to diaper disposals to pull out and play with dirty diapers. We don’t put our hands in toilets and splash the water and giggle and laugh. But, we are often attracted to the less desirable things in life. God has given us so many good and glorious things and yet, we find ourselves with our arms up to our shoulders in some icky, sticky sin or another. I can imagine the angels, like we parents, marveling at such odd behavior.
The apostle Paul mentions his own struggles in Romans seven. Paul says the things he wants to do, he finds himself not doing and things he doesn’t want to do, those are the things he finds himself doing. You see, unlike my one year old daughter or those kids in the nursery, we, as adult believers─we know better. We know diaper disposals and toilets are no places to be putting our hands. We know there is nothing in those places that is healthy and good for us. Yet, more times than I would care to admit, I find myself splashing about in the dirty water.
They say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and while I’m not all that familiar with geese, or ganders for that matter, I think we adults can learn something from ourselves. The next time I find myself telling my one year old to stay out of the toilet, let me be reminded to avoid the toilets I am so often prone to stick a hand or two in from time to time. Our toilets (i.e. sins) may be more sophisticated, but they are dirtier as well. My daughter dirties her hands and shirts in the toilet water, while we dirty our souls.
Aren’t we thankful for the gracious truth, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn. 1.9) I can hear our Father saying patiently, Stop playing in the dirty toilet and come enjoy the good things I have for you.