My three year old son is rarely blatantly disobedient. Sure, he’ll occasionally steal a toy from another kid on the playground, and I’ve had to tell him more than once that his feet do not belong on his dinner plate. But by and large he’s an easy kid. A good listener.
Which is why I was shocked a few weeks ago to find him standing in a cloud of cinnamon.
Let me back up. It’s was hotter than the surface of the sun in southern California those few weeks. Add to the high temperatures the fact that I had a 15-pound baby strapped to me at all times (he won’t nap in his crib! joy of joys!), and you had a real recipe for misery. So we’ve stayed inside in the air conditioning quite a bit.
Being indoors is hard on the three-year-old. He likes to run and climb and bounce and generally be in motion, and in a two-bedroom condo the opportunities for safe physical exertion are limited. I let him bounce on a mattress on the floor for over an hour, but had to say no to climbing the bookshelves (don’t worry – they’re bolted to the wall!), jumping down the stairs, and hanging over the balcony.
(I know, I’m so mean.)
I was desperate for a safe activity that would entertain him for more than ten minutes.
Then it hit me. What about baking? How much trouble can a kid get into with measuring cups and butter?
Plenty, it turns out. Plenty.
He decided on cupcakes. I sat him up on the counter. He played with the ingredients we keep in canisters–oats, chocolate chips, baking mix, cinnamon–while I got out paper tin liners.
“Mom, can I have some chocolate chips?” he asked.
“You can have one,” I said, not wanting to give a large dose of sugar to a preschooler already struggling to chill out in a confined space. He obediently grabbed one from the container and closed the lid.
“Can I have THIS?” he asked.
I turned to see him holding a giant, heaping tablespoon of cinnamon.
“No, buddy,” I said. “You won’t like it. How about just a little taste?” He nodded. I moistened the edge of a spoon, stuck it in the jar, and let him taste it.
“I like it!” he chirped.
“I’m glad!” I said. “But let’s put the rest away for now.” I closed the jar and slid it back on the counter. Then I turned to get the measuring cups.
Half a second later–literally half a second–I turned back to see my son sitting absolutely saucer-eyed. I wasn’t sure what had happened until he made a strangled cry and erupted in a puff of cinnamon dust.
He ate an entire tablespoon of cinnamon. I rushed to his aid and between a gallon of water, a toothbrush, a large cup of milk, paper towels, regular towels, and lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth, he survived his ordeal.
Ten minutes later we were snuggled on the couch together, his little towhead in my lap as I stroked his (very red) cheek.
“Mommy?” he looked up at me with wide, shell-shocked eyes.
“I do not know why I did that.”
I hear you, kid. That’s how sin works. We end up doing or saying things we never thought we would. We fail to do the things we want to do. It’s an endless, exhausting cycle, and it starts young.
Sometimes, apparently, it involves the cinnamon challenge.
We’re in good company though, since the Apostle Paul was in the same boat:
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Our son’s encounter with the cinnamon challenge could have had a much more serious ending. I’m grateful his injuries were limited to pride, watering eyes, and a lot of drool.
In the aftermath of my son’s baking fiasco, I realized anew why God wants us to turn from sin. It’s not so we can be good little boys and girls who are worthy of his love. It’s not so we don’t trouble him by creating more chaos in the world. It’s because sin has consequences, and they are horrible. God wants to spare us the cloud of cinnamon, the burning eyes, the scratchy throat.
All we have to to is trust him. Turns out, he isn’t trying to make us miss out on something.
It’s a human problem as old as the Garden of Eden. God says, “Don’t touch that,” and we’re all, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”
Maybe, just maybe, he’s trying to save us from ourselves.