"I believe that learning to deal with anger could be called, "Spirituality 601." It's graduate-level Christianity. Our children constitute our homework, our mixed emotions become our textbooks, and the character that results will reveal our final grade."
This week's grade for me... "F"... Not a "D" for partially failing... but truly it has been a big fat "F" for FAILING. I am hoping that it is true when I say that all of us parents have days ( maybe even weeks) like this... Where, at best, all we can muster up on this week's report card is a failing grade.
These past few weeks, anger has gotten the best of me. I am rasing a bunch of little sinners, yes, but the crazy (and oh so humbling) part is that in my daily interactions with them, I become sickly aware of my own sin. I know that in any intimate relationship, that anger will at some point show it's ugly head... The disappointing news for me is that I am so aware of the fact that I am most often not mature enough to handle my anger in a righteous way. Parenting is clearly not for the weak at heart... and if I'm honest... I am currently very WEAK at heart.
"Anger, Like war, is one of the uncomfortable realities of life. Living in a fallen world, raising fallen children, we are forced to confront disagreeable necessities. All of us wish we never needed to get angry... Sadly, sin sometimes demands a forceful response. Until Jesus returns, war will always erupt between nations, and anger will inevitably flare up between parents and their children..."
We've all been there... We might not be there now... And we hate it when we have to admit that it is us finding ourselves in the thick of our own sin... but we have all been there...
Maybe we've had a colic baby that cried for hours on end that caused us to shout and the innocent little life in false hope that our shouting would stop the crying. Maybe we've had a toddler that repeatedly looks us in the face and mockingly defies our every instruction. Maybe we are living with a teenager who has no regard or respect for the standards and expectations that we desire to be carried out in our home. I know we've all been there... and if any of us says that we haven't, we are deceiving ourselves. It's a truly crappy thing to have to admit. But in all honesty it kind feels like a relief to put it all out on the table. Much of my life I have spent convincing myself that it is safer and more comfortable to keep my struggles and my sin in the dark. But as I'm growing, I'm realizing that the hiding in the darkness is actually way scarier than forcing myself to put things in the light.
Parenting is HARD! It fills my heart with unspeakable joy, and then five minutes later it can break me to a point that sometimes feels beyond repair.
"Unfortunately we can't get around the fact that sacred parenting leads us into dirty spiritual realities. TO avoid these realities is as much a sin as to glory in them. Ironically, most of us will probably fail from both perspectives. But we can't avoid them. We must face anger, knowing we will sin in our anger but also that God will forgive us while he uses the process to make us just a bit more like the Son who bore GOd's righteous anger on our behalf."
See, parenting, just like marriage, isn't meant to be this uneventful, blissful, perfect little fake life... it's meant to make us more like Him, like our Savior. And I've been noticing a pattern over the past 10 years or so of my life that things that draw me closer to the Lord are usually the things in my life that I try recklessly to avoid, or at least I pretend that I have it together enough that those things would never happen to me.
Right now, I am being refined. Refined through my relationship with my kids, refined through my inability to control a few other areas of my life that I would LOVE to control right now.
I continually find myself asking the Lord to sanctify me, to make me more like Him. And the moment that he begins to strip me, I find myself angry and wanting to resist his molding me. I wish with all my heart that I could learn to be more like him without going through the fire. I wish I had been able to learn to give my children whole-heartedly to his control without Him having had to take three of my babies home to himself. But now that I have had to literally surrender them to Him, I know with my whole that none of my children are truly mine. They are are all the Lord's. They have always been the Lord's. They will always be the Lord's. The ones that are with me now, are simply on loan to me. He's given them to me to refine me. To, in His kindness, break me, so that I might have the privilege of truly knowing Him... in all his glory! Unfortunately, I could not havr truly learned this lesson in the depths of my heart had I not gone through the pain of the loss.
I have been thinking through the different people that the Lord used in His Word. The people who saw God the clearest, the most intimately, the most sincerely... suffered great loss, great pain, great heartache. Several were persecuted, several were stoned, several sacrificed their lives, several lost the ones they loved, several were often hungry, several were monetarily poor... and yet, we read about them and we tell ourselves how much we want to be as close to the Lord as they were... but we somehow we overlook all the trials, heartaches, losses, etc., that they went through to know their Savior in such a personal way. Instead, we want the intimacy without the cost.
As I've struggled these past few weeks I've been thinking about Steven. I've been thinking about how when he was being stoned, he looked up and saw Jesus STANDING at the right hand of the Father. (Tears are coming down my cheeks even as I write this) That's how close I want to be with my Savior! That He might STAND, for me, is incomprehensibly. But the reason I think that it feels so incomprehensibly is because in my true heart, I often long to see his glory but want to avoid the sacrifice (the pain, the frustration, the lack of comfort and control that I love and cling to for dear life) that it would take to see that glory.
These past few weeks, I have forgotten why I am a parent. I am not a parent so that I can flaunt my flawless children, in their flawless clothes, acting in their flawless behavior. I am a parent so that th Lord can use the four little lives in my home to make me more Holy, more set apart for Him and His glory.
Maybe I failed this week. Maybe this week I earned myself a big fat "F". But His mercy beckons me to try, try again. His grace embraces me and asks me, oh so gently, to let go of my insane desire to control everything, and allow the Master Potter to mold me into something more beautiful than I could ever mold myself into. His love reminds me each minute, of the free-flowing, never-ending amount of forgiveness that he never ceases to offer when I find myself screwing up, again and again and again.
I can let "F" leave me in my failure. OR
I can let "F" lead me to "F"orgiveness, and "F"uture Hope!
I choose the latter.
The quotes in this post are from a fabulous book called "Sacred Parenting," by Gary Thomas