Parenting is REALLY tough. In the almost 14 years that I have been a parent, I have experienced and demonstrated the good, the bad, and the ugly in parenting. My brother and sister (in-law) just embarked on that lifetime job when they gave birth to my beautiful, precious niece two months ago. I had the joy and privilege to spend alone time with my family, including her for part of this week. And I will be praying for them to have God's strength in the good, bad and ugly times of parenting.
This week, I listened to Paul Tripp talk about anger and the heart issues behind it. And, as usually happens when I hear God's word applied in my life, I felt totally convicted. I repented of all the idols in my life that lead to my outbursts of anger at my kids, at my husband and, even at God. And there was a certain amount of pride that I had to release, too. But the change I want to happen won't happen without His Spirit giving me His character and undergoing deep-seated, 40+ year-deep habits doesn't happen overnight or with any consistent progress. And one day this week with my kids proves it:
Morning: A child is being disrespectful. When I quietly ask the child if the tone and wording is respectful, the child sulks and gets more disrespectful. After four more instances in ten minutes, as I feel God's patience welling up in me and His concern for the child's heart issues behind the attitude, I suggest that the child take a few minutes and give God everything that is causing the poor tone and attitude so that He can help change it. By the end of the lesson, that child's attitude is changed and we have a great day together. Score! In this split second, I am an awesome parent.
Afternoon: We are preparing for a camping excursion, a karate class and our weekly Bible study fellowship simultaneously. Too many things to do. My temper is short as we race around to pull everything together. I pack meals for everyone to eat on the car ride or during karate class (for those participants) and some snacks for the fellowship. I pack a cold case with some hummus that should be eating soon, along with eating utensils for the night. The same Child-With-An-Attitude goes to the car to retrieve the utensils before karate starts. After the class is over, I go to the back and find the hummus has been sitting out of its cool case for ninety minutes in a 100+ degree car. I let out a wail and say, "Why can't you kids EVER put ANYTHING away?" before I catch myself and realize that this is a teeny-tiny issue that affects my pride more than anything else. Fail! At this moment, I am a bad parent, though I did manage to get a grip before it became ugly.
The child starts feeling bad and God reminds me what I must do to make it right. I take a moment to apologize and remind her that it REALLY is a no big deal and that I over-reacted to it. Both of us calm down quickly and have a great car ride. Save! I am a redeemed parent.
And that is a wonderful picture of how God's grace works to help us love His way and redeem a situation when we "love" our way. This song by the late Rich Mullins is my all time favorite because it perfectly describes the typical Christian walk and helps me to remember that God's grace is available to me in any and every situation. May you experience His grace as you listen to it.