Leaning Back

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She leaned back into the soapy water, and we heard “whack!” as her head hit the side of the tub. Screaming ensued. Daddy swooped in, towel in hand, to scoop her up and carry her to her room. Her face, beet red, was still contorted with the ‘cry face’. Crying due to equal parts head bump and tub removal. Wrapped in a white towel, wrapped in our love, she reminded me of the day she was born. She’s changed so much, but that face when she’s crying, it’s exactly the same. She cries sometimes because to her we ruin her fun, keep her from her joy. She doesn’t yet understand our love.

He told her more than once during her bath that she couldn’t lean back into the water.
“You’ll fall and bump your head, my love.” or “If you lean back, you’ll go under the water.” Both perfectly reasonable statements of fact. She’s 15 months old. There’s no such thing as reasonable. There’s zero impulse control and a will of iron. Our baby girl is a toddler now.

As my husband was drying her off, and she calmed down, due in large part to a particularly soft bear standing by, he said something to her which caused my breath to catch in my throat.

“Maggie, sometimes Daddy has to tell you no. Daddy and Mommy make rules, and sometimes we have to tell you no in order to stop you from hurting yourself. It’s not because we don’t love you. It’s because we love you so much, we want you to be safe. And when you don’t listen, then you get hurt.”

It was my husband’s voice, but it was God talking straight to my heart.

“Sarah, sometimes I have to tell you no. I make rules in order to keep you from hurting yourself. It’s not because I don’t love you, want to control you, want to keep you from your bliss, or any other ulterior motive. It’s because I love you and I want you to be safe and holy. When you don’t listen to my voice, you get hurt.”

Within His perimeters is peace, freedom, and joy. I know that. You know that.

But how often do I act like a spiritual toddler, forever launching myself backwards into the side of the bathtub? Surely God can’t be asking THAT of me. Not that. I mean, if I do THAT, or don’t do THIS, how can I be happy?

Doesn’t God want me to be happy?

The question hangs in the air like ripe fruit, doubt and fear creeping in to make me question God’s goodness.

What I do know, what I do believe, what I’ve learned from the story of my life, is that when I let go of leaning back into those things that God says “no” to, I find out that He’s been waiting to give me something even greater than what my little soul thinks will set me free. I do not yet understand His love. May this Holy Week be a time for all of us grow and understand it more clearly.

Sarah Babbs

Sarah Babbs

Sarah Babbs is a married mother of a toddler girl, writing from Indiana where she moved for love after growing up on the east coast. Sarah and her husband, a lawyer, lead marriage prep classes for their parish in addition to daydreaming about becoming lunatic farmers. During stolen moments when the toddler sleeps and the laundry multiplies itself, Sarah writes about motherhood, Catholic social thought, and ponders the meaning of being a woman "made in the image of God". Her website is Fumbling Toward Grace.

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2 thoughts on “Leaning Back”

  1. Avatar

    Sarah! Tears again…keep writing these!! I surely love reading them. I quit fb, but am glad I snuck onto the spouses… Love your perspective.

  2. Avatar

    So true. Beautifully written. If only people would live the way Jesus would want us to live. I love the way you use common everyday events to remind us of God’s teachings.

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