We started potty-training Annie last weekend, and while it was certainly all-encompassing for a few days, it wasn’t as tortuous as the image I had built up in my mind. It began as most parents’ toilet training experiences do.

On Saturday morning, we very ceremoniously threw away Annie’s diapers, saying “bye bye” as I bagged up the extras and dropped them by the garbage can in the garage; she then donned her carefully selected Moana big-girl panties from Target. Then, we hunkered down. I offered juice. Lots of juice. And every twenty minutes, whether she felt like she needed to or not, we went on a “potty train” to the bathroom. She peed. I danced. I squealed. I high-fived. We FaceTimed aunts, uncles, grandparents. I made a little sticker chart and promised prizes. In a heavy doll stage at the moment, Annie asked for “ALLLL the yellow babies in the world” (I am undone by two things here: her pronunciation of the word “yeyow,” her current favorite color, and by the fact that it sounds like she’s asking for a bunch of new jaundiced doll babies).

By noon of Day Two, Annie seemed like she got it. She was all confident and like, “I’m a big girl now.” FALSE. In the past week, she’s pooped her pants at church, the hardware store, and, horrifyingly, whilst standing on top of my parents’ cream oriental rug.

Regardless of the progress we’re making (or not) in this potty-training process, there was one moment last weekend that I’ve been mulling over this week. Annie had just had an accident amidst her viewing and distractedness of her beloved Paw Patrol, and as I laid out a few fresh undies as options for her to choose from (autonomy, people!), she said, “Mama, can I just have a diaper again?”

Determined to move forward in this developmental milestone for her, I ran my hand over her wispy head of curls and gently reminded her that diapers were a thing of the past, and that this was her new normal. I told her how proud I was of her, that I saw how hard she was working at this new, tough thing, and that I understood what it felt like to want to go back to something comfortable, to something you know.

And then, instead of immediately putting some panties on her, I suggested we fill the baby pool in the front yard and asked if she just wanted to be naked for a little while. She practically sprinted to the front door (shocker), and, standing there at the top of the driveway, I grinned like an idiot as I watched my daughter do a splash dance in the baby pool, bare-ass and free as can be (#shieldthejoyous).

Her sense of freedom and giddiness after having shed her diapers (and other undergarments) prompted the question in me: what’s keeping me from living that freely? My almost-three-year-old is dancing around, freely learning to manage the poop of her life. It made me realize that while I might wear big girl panties, I’m thirty years old and still wear diapers. I use safety nets to avoid dealing with my shit; I “depend” (sorry, too easy) on functional gods to keep me comfortable, relatively dry, numbed, and able to ignore that which calls for my attention as part of my spiritual formation. I often shield myself from the uglier parts of my heart probably because I feel like I don’t have the energy or time to face it, or try to fix it.

Specifically, in the quiet moments between naps or mealtimes with my littles, as they perhaps play for a few minutes with their megablocks or tune in to Daniel Tiger, I turn to Pinterest or Instagram or Snapchat or iMessage to numb my tiredness and to allow myself a bit of a mental break. I click here or comment there. I read an article about parenting that probably messes with my sense of law a bit; I dabble in a friend’s vacation pictures, follow a new mom blogger with free crafts to do with the girls, or poke around design websites and daydream about subway tile in our kitchen or new couch pillows covered in a fun Schumacher print.

And the truth is, I do need a moment to unwind and daydream, to shut down and not have to react or decide or direct or teach, especially during the school year when I’m “on” in the classroom all day. I need a moment to rest. And this is all good and fine until I find that it’s been a week since I’ve talked to God or weeks since I engaged with His word. So is the rest that I seek problematic?

I am a mama, who, much like the communion bread she takes every Sunday, is blessed by God and then broken and given out to her children time and time again each day. I am also a human being who longs to live into the fullness of what God might have for me by living what the hubs calls in Falling Into Grace a “transformed life.” My hope is that by moving deeper into my own depths, I might use my spaces and places and gifts to bless others and God. I want to fully engage in the life that God has called me to by embracing my wounds, my warts, and yes, that which fills my metaphorical diapers.

But lately I’ve been wondering: How can I expect to be spiritually formed if Pinterest is basically functioning as my porn, keeping me from acknowledging my sin? How can I expect to be drawn into the story of the cross if I’m constantly zoning out to Instastories? What growth do I really think is possible for myself if I prioritize a binge Netflix marathon for the sake of “relaxation”?

So there’s the tension. I’m still in metaphorical Pampers as a thirty-year-old mama, and I’m having a hard time potty-training myself. And I now wonder if I’m alone in this, and whether that’s even my job. Are we all just walking around with poop in our diapers, clinging to our safety nets so we can avoid dealing with the shitty parts of our hearts? Unsurprisingly (since I feel like God likes to work in themes in my life), my husband’s sermon on the parable of the mustard seed this past Sunday acted as a balm on my heart as I sat wrestling with this question of what can I do to foster my own spiritual formation, to bring myself nearer to Christ:

We have so little to do with Christ’s nearness to us that, like the farmer, we can go to sleep. To have anxiety over the outcome of our life or the outcome of our world, as far as this parable is concerned, would be like a master gardener pacing frantically over a seed buried in the ground, yelling at it to grow.

I wonder what might happen if we dared to trust that the seed of our life and the seed of our world would mature in time? Because the point of faith isn’t to transform yourself. The point of faith isn’t even to transform our world. The point of faith is to increase our capacity to trust God with ultimate outcomes and, in trusting, to learn how to rest. Now when I’ve taught on this before, people invariably get anxious and ask: ‘Well, does what we do matter at all?’ To respond to that question: what we do matters not because God needs our “good deeds,” but rather because some of our actions are seeds that God freely chooses to use in whatever great harvest awaits our world.

And the whole point of the mustard seed is ‘the smaller, the better.’ If today’s Gospel tells us anything, it’s that the Kingdom of God is a mystery, that we are a mystery. That like a seed buried beneath the earth, something in us is growing, but we don’t know how. The whole process is hidden and mysterious and uncontrollable — completely incompatible with how ‘getting things done’ works in our day-to-day lives.

What sweet relief. In this parable of the mustard seed, God interrupts the way I see my own formation. God isn’t depending or waiting on me to get my stuff done that he might form my heart and rid me of the poop that fills my metaphorical diapers. He is issuing me an invitation to simply rest, trusting the mystery of His hand and His process, knowing with confidence that I am being made into a new creation now. So perhaps it’s okay to still wear a metaphorical pull-up as a thirty-year-old every now and then. Perhaps God’s work in me isn’t restricted by what I see as my safety nets, even though my attention to and awareness of my own habits and tendencies can act as seeds that God might choose to use as He seeks to usher in His Kingdom in my life. Perhaps grace actually is my safety net.

Returning now to the illustration of Annie’s little naked dance in our front yard baby pool, I’m seeing now that perhaps she was dancing free and easy not because she had made an individual step-by-step plan for how to form herself into a potty-trained toddler or “big girl” but because she wholly trusted that someone looking over her had the capacity to get things done and that ultimately, her maturation would happen mysteriously, beautifully, and fully. She could just shake her tushy and be free. Specifically, naked.