I had a great conversation with a friend recently. Out of the blue, it was equal parts encouraging and convicting. It was a divine appointment, the kind of chat that so clearly drove home what the Holy Spirit had been speaking that it could only have come directly from Him. I was sharing with this friend how much I've struggled with my children lately, in the midst of this chaotic season. This friend, who is several years further down the parenting road than I, encouraged me that, with Jesus, I could do it. She then exhorted me, with Jesus, to do it. In a word, get it together, mama.
You see, I have kind of hated parenting lately. I love my boys, but they have been tiny terrors. I know where it's coming from - nothing in our world is normal right now. Their routine is completely upended. They spend hours strapped in their car seats and fed a steady diet of DVDs and fast food. Most importantly, the thing they need and want most in the world, the positive, loving attention of mommy and daddy, has all but disappeared. So they act out, pick fights, talk back, whine, and generally push every button and boundary until Mommy snaps.
And oh, do I ever snap. I never considered myself to have much of a temper until now. But lately, when I finally crash into bed at night, I cringe as I replay the angry words, harsh condemnations, and barked orders that peppered our conversations during the day. My little ones push, and I react. They push, I react. I feel helpless to do anything else, that I have no time or energy to spend getting to the real heart of the problem and coming up with real solutions. My toolbox is limited to yelling, threatening, bribing, and begging, none of which are effective as more than temporary band-aids.
More importantly, those tools, those strategies are doing nothing to teach my children about Jesus.
After the conversation with my friend, I drove home (alone, for a change) and told the Lord about my problem.
"I can't do any better, Lord. I just have nothing left to give right now."
My grace is sufficient for you.
"Sure, under normal circumstances. But this is ridiculous. How can I be expected to model anything to them right now?"
Let's see... Daniel... Job... Joseph... Esther... Boaz...Moses... Paul... ... Do I need to keep going?
Humph. "Okay, okay. So my circumstances aren't that bad. But... I'm showing them why Mommy needs Jesus, too. Like, ALL the time. That's good, right?"
That is good. That's a start.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
"Huh. I haven't really nailed those lately."
Not so much.
"I can't stop yelling at them. I can't stop saying things that I wish I could take back five minutes later."
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word promotes evil.
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Pleasant words promote instruction.
"I get it. I'm sorry. I'll start doing better soon, I promise."
Start doing it now. Show them who I am, today.
And so I am. Trying. Present tense. Because it is not okay to just throw up my hands and quit. It's not okay to put a pin in this Godly parenting business and decide I'll pick it back up when life returns to normal. This is when my children need most to see Jesus in me. This is when I need to show them not just why Mommy needs Jesus, but what Jesus does in Mommy. It's good for them to see me screw up. It's great for them to see forgiveness in action. It's even better, I would argue, for them to see repentance. Transformation. Obedience and faithfulness, in my words and my actions, when it's really, really hard. That's where they learn who He is and what He does with hopeless, helpless people.
Gentle words. Kind hands. Loving attitude. Go team.