We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (Romans 15:1)
When he (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)
And the Lord’s servantmust not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
i’ve been challenged to the max recently to come to Jesus with my sin and trust He can help me overcome. the catalyst, of course, was a little boy.
i have a super-sensitive, high energy (need to move kind of energy), spirited, extremely loud and explosive four-year-old in my house. over the past two weeks, i’ve endured a lot from that little man — throwing cars at my legs, screaming at me to go away, clapping and waving his hands in front of my face, spitting on me. all this because i said you needed to say sorry to your brother? or take your plate to the sink? or come over here because i need to talk to you and address something?
my go-to in situations like these has been anger, with thoughts along the lines of “no child will treat me like that! no PERSON will treat me like that! if i let this go, he will just keep it right on coming!” so when i read the above verses the first time, “parenting” didn’t really pop up on my radar. but then again, i didn’t really think i would experience persecution and taunting in the form of my precious little boy. but it has been eye-opening to see that i have been putting my hope in my anger and its ability to emotionally move my unmovable son, rather than in the redemptive power of grace. i read something the other day that floored me: the reason we, as parents, don’t actually employ grace in the hard moments is because we don’t really believe it will work. when a kid has smashed a toy into the wall and is now screaming at you, with a look of pure malice, that you aren’t wanted anymore, the human flesh screams, “grace??! HELL NO.”
but Jesus calls us to be different. Jesus calls for grace, even in that moment. Jesus calls for love, for a kind and gentle response, for brokenness.
truth be told, one of the main reasons i haven’t sought out grace more in my hard parenting experiences is because i didn’t really think it was possible — to turn the other cheek to my child? to offer him my shirt when he’s already demanded my coat? to patiently endure his tirade till its over, praying for his heart and choosing not to remember his words? those are things the sinless saint would/could do, and me? i am not sinless.
but the last thing Jesus requires is perfection. many, many prayers like the following have been said at my house: “oh Jesus, when he screams like that, i just want to smack him! help me not smack him! i so DO NOT want to be gracious right now, i want to return evil for evil, and i want to throw something at the wall! help me to be quiet! help me hold my tongue and wait. help me walk in the Spirit!”
the heart of the issue for me has been belief — do i believe the cross to be enough for me in those tough moments? are there things to be thankful for even then? can i trust that God will take the clay-heart of my child and mold it to His liking when i choose to employ His methods?
the other day, i chose to say ‘yes’ to these questions and believe God’s grace to be sufficient. twenty minutes into the day, my little man had thrown a five-star tantrum over something so miniscule i don’t even remember, and he was in a time-out. only his time-out wasn’t really working, and he was sitting next to the fridge in our kitchen, hurling magnets at me and screaming things like, “this isn’t right! i don’t want to! you can’t make me! get back here! go away!,” with pictures and cards previously stuck to the fridge flying in the air. i wanted to scream. i wanted to put my hands on that little boys shoulders and dig my fingers in deep. i wanted to rage right along with him. i wanted to show him who’s boss. ashamedly, many times i have done these things.
instead, i chose to pray. and it was a choice that required every. single. ounce of my will. i cried out, “God, i don’t know what to do when he’s like this!” and almost immediately, the 1 Peter verse came into my mind — “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return.” and i was crushed. instead of screaming like i had wanted to just seconds prior, i wept. i wept for my sin, for my son and his sin, for my unbelief, for Jesus. i endured the words and screams of my son and thought, amazed, that i was filling up what was lacking in Christ’s sufferings (Colossians 1:24). when the timer went off, the fit still raging, i was able to calmly tell jones that he’d have to have another time out, since the last had been so crazy. miraculously, he submitted, though not happily.
just 10 minutes later, while i was making breakfast, he sat at the table rolling a car around. i thought about grace. the flesh in me wanted to make him pay for his fit, for the mean things he said, for the rest of the morning. i thought about grace being undeserved favor, and i went to my little boy and gave him a hug. i looked in his eyes and tousled his hair and just smiled at him for a bit, thanking God for his dimples. and do you know what he did next? he put his hands on my cheeks and said, “mommy.. you’re beautiful.” as if that wasn’t enough, he wrapped his arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “i’m sorry i freaked out in the kitchen.”
and i was done for. i told him i forgave him and he scurried away and i cried and cried while i made pancakes, wishing i had believed sooner than that day.
grace. oh my goodness, grace.