No experience has made me more aware of my sinful human frailty and desperate need for a Redeemer than parenthood. It frazzles me quicker than I’d like to admit, stretching my patience and compassion. This is NOT a reflection on my children. After all, they are only 1 and 3 years old! Every struggle they face is an opportunity to learn and my responsibility to lead them in the way they should go. Wasn’t I in their place but a few short decades ago?! Parenthood ought be cherished as it is a gift not given to all. It is an unmerited blessing and a privilege. But oh, how it shows the weaknesses in myself!
When raising small children, ample opportunities abound to grow impatient, to respond out of frustration, to frazzle and fray. Whether giving an answer for the umpteenth time or teaching a life lesson again, perspective can shift in a nanosecond off of the big picture of their developing lives to how inconvenienced I am by the whole thing. To respond in anger gives momentary satisfaction and long-lasting regret. I have given in to my frustrations far more often than I’d like to admit and had to ask my children’s forgiveness more than I ever dreamed necessary. *sigh*
Yesterday was one such day. Certainly not a mom-of-the-year worthy day…at all! Once the kids were finally napping, I lay in bed – exhausted and reeling in regret over my responses to them. “Come on, Patience! You’re 30! You’re the PARENT! You set the example! Good grief. How do you expect them to learn and feel loved if you act like that?!” The shame fell thick on my heart.
Hours later, the Lord worked through story time with the kids to speak His love and grace over my heart. We read The Good Shepherd chapter out of The Jesus Storybook Bible and though the words were about David, it felt like the Lord was speaking straight to me.
“David was a shepherd, but when God looked at him, He saw a king. He had a heart like God’s heart – full of love. Now, that didn’t mean he was perfect, because he did some terrible things – he even murdered a man. No, David made a big mess of his life. But God can take even the biggest mess and make it work in His plan. ‘I need a new heart, Lord,’ David prayed, ‘because mine is full of sin. Make me clean inside.’ God heard David’s prayer. He forgave David…”
In reading those words, the Lord spoke gently. “Yes, you do terrible things some times. But I can redeem those things. You’re not perfect but I AM. Come to me with your mess. I love you.” Later that same day, I was reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Once again, the Lord spoke from heavens high to my fallen, weary heart as I read Ann’s words:
“The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace? Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in the child….Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry? Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me into the full life I really want? Give THANKS to keep your gaze on heaven.”
In all this, I felt overwhelmed by God’s goodness. After all, He is my Heavenly Father. How often I act the part of child, tantrumed and defiant and selfish. Yet never once has He responded in anger towards me. Never once has He failed to show love and grace, even on my most deplorable days. When I honor Him, His grace remains. When I go against all He has ever taught me, His grace remains. When conviction fills my heart and I run to Him, never once has He held His arms crossed, still too mad from my behavior to reconcile. No. His arms are ALWAYS open wide for the wayward child to come. His love is ALWAYS lavishing, even when we least deserve it. God, the ever-faithful, ever-patient, ever-enduring Father.
Parenthood. It stretches, it tests, it can refine. When my little ones act out, may I focus not on their indiscretions towards my inconvenienced heart, but on the One who never grows impatient with me. May I remember His grace that is ever extended and show the same to my children. In the moments of meltdowns, may my mind remember the many I’ve been forgiven of by my Heavenly Father and show the same kindness to Eliana and Evan. May I be grateful for their very lives, that I even have kids to love and train. Lord, keep me grateful and mindful of Your great love towards me. On my own, I will surely fail as a parent. May I rest in Him and simply pass along to my sweet ones that which He has poured out on me.