As I sit here tonight, I am amazed and taken aback at the place that God has led me to. Three weeks ago I was signing up to do something I have never thought I would do, and that was to blog to you.
Two weeks ago, my daughter decided to submerge our laptop (our only computer) in the pool. I figured that was the end of the blogging idea. I prayed that God would grant me mercy in having the computer work again, but to be honest it was mostly because I was scared to tell my husband — who, by the way, took the news extremely well. And, being on a trip when I dropped the bombshell, he still had a huge smile and hug for me when I came in the door. Well, God chose to grant my request.
So here I sit. The only conclusion I can draw from God’s leading is that God is going to give me something to say that will encourage, grow, and maybe even challenge you over these next few months. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I have to admit I am a little overwhelmed, stressed, nervous, and, to be honest, exhausted. It has not been the easiest day with my two kiddos (ages five and two), and I am baffled at what I am writing about this year: character development and child rearing. I feel this is the last subject I should be writing on, and I am certainly the most unqualified writer for this topic. I cling to the promise that God qualifies the called; He doesn’t call the qualified.
I guess the best thing to do is simply share my testimony. We are told we can never go wrong with telling our personal experience with our Creator. So, here it goes…
I was raised in a conservative Adventist home. Growing up, I thought our home was the best ever and never dreamed that we had any issues. Of course as I grew and saw some of the issues our family had, I didn’t want to repeat them. My parents were the best parents they could possibly be and I love them very much, but like all parents they fell short.
Some of this left me with several things I struggle with: I constantly doubt myself, I am really hard on myself and my kids, I struggle with how to learn to submit to my husband and still maintain respect and control of my kids, I tend to react instead of thinking things through and it takes me a long time to recover from arguments, I am not consistent at all in my parenting, I don’t adjust to change, keeping a schedule is a real challenge, and most of all I have a trust issue. I trust friends and acquaintances, but I struggle to trust the people closest to me. All summed up, I struggle to understand what love is, let alone live in a way that reflects that love to my children. To be honest, in this sinful world I think we all struggle with what love is and what it looks like.
As I was pouring my heart out to the Lord one morning. (It was one of those early mornings after an extremely hard day interacting with my loved ones. I am sure you have had those too. I had woken up at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep because of the despair that I was feeling about the struggles with my children. The Devil was throwing up how they would lose their salvation because my son does this and that and my daughter does this and that…) So for once I did what we all should do, I went to our life source first I opened up my bible. I remember being upset because I could not parent the way my heart wants to parent. I totally related to Paul when he says in Romans 7:15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; But what I hate, that do I.” My heart wants to parent like Christ, My heart wants to be loving, and patient and kind, and all of the “Love traits” talked about in 1 Corinthians 13.
My brain however just wasn’t wrapping around it. I was finding myself parenting the way that my parents parented. “It’s my way or the highway” type attitude. Although they meant well and I usually did what they asked, I remembered muttering under my breath and not happily obeying the whole time. (I want heart obedience from my children not “because I say so” obedience.)
When I was in my early twenties is the first time I really felt like I had seen a small glimps of my family’s flaws. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I went with my friend who had just gotten her license. We were driving her big family van (One of those 9 passenger rigs) and were going to the store for something. When we had finished shopping she accidently backed into another vehicle. We couldn’t tell if we had done any damage as the car already had a fair bit of damage in that area. We waited for a few minutes but no one came out so I wrote a note with our phone number to call and get things worked out later if we had done damage, as we had a timeframe and couldn’t wait around. We stuck the note under the windshield wiper and left.
When we got to our second store, we happened to bump into her parents. I was totally embarrassed to be there as her parents were, as you can imagine, a little bit upset. However, it wasn’t a scene like at home. She actually reasoned with her parents and talked things through, she told them how she was feeling and they said how they were feeling. They all worked it out in about ten minutes and I remember thinking, “Man, if I ever talked to my parents that way, I would be in big trouble.” Not that my parents would go off on me, but I just never felt like I could be open and express my feelings like she was able to do. Yet that experience stuck with me. Although I didn’t realize the full implications of “our faults” at the time I remembered that I wanted to have that kind of relationship with my children someday. A relationship that they could tell me anything and we could talk about everything.
As I contemplated this in my mind that morning the Lord spoke to me. He revealed a glimps of His love in my life and how He handles me. He showed me that He allows me to make choices and guides me instead of punishes me, He patiently works through circumstances to grow my character and He works at the speed I respond to. I understand the frustration some of the Bible writers had, it’s just hard to put some things into words. But I will try to sum it up.
God loves each one of us so much that He gives us free will. We have a choice. He lets us learn through our natural consequences. He lets us know ahead of time what the consequences are going to be. There is no condemnation, irritation or frustration from Him toward us. Instead He has sympathy, tenderness, understanding and patience toward us. He is eager for us to understand and reason with us. He wants us to tell Him how we are feeling, our little struggles and our successes.
I sat there trying to sort all of this out as I told Him, “I can’t do this Lord. If I did that my children would be even more unruly and very frustrating and I already have friends and family who struggle to be around me because of my children’s demanding, high energy behavior. I ate raw when I was pregnant with Elijah, I spent tons of time reading and praying and living a balanced life. My husband and I were in the newlywed stage so we had an awesome relationship. Why am I struggling with hyperactivity and defiance? Why Lord? How am I supposed to be like you? What you have showed me is something I can’t even comprehend myself, how am I supposed to live it? How am I supposed to teach it to my children?”
We are a representation to our children of Christ, They get their idea of what God is like from us and how we parent them. This is a hard thought to think on, but one that I think is important for us to assess. We can’t be like Christ in our selves, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murderers, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23) The devil will throw this up in our face and make us feel hopeless, but don’t be discouraged be encouraged, “And He said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) It is only when we feel like this that we truly surrender to Christ and when we can’t do anything to fix the problem ourselves, then we allow Him to work and to do through us what we ourselves cannot do. I am so grateful for the way God created kids. With their quick to forgive, constant love and confidence and their desire to be close to us. Sometimes the greatest struggles I have with them are really the biggest blessing. I just have to realize that at the time.
So, as we meet each month to follow the growth, learn new tricks and evaluate where we are at, I pray that God will lead us in how to be more like Him and to see the true character of Love, as our minds will forever be struggling to contemplate what Love truly looks like.