I pray this simple prayer many times every day. Please hear me when I say that there is nothing I'd rather be doing in this season of my life than spending my days at home with my kids. For goodness sake, I got to go bike-riding this morning and watch my kids climb a willow tree while other people went to work on this glorious Monday morning. Yes, I am exactly where I want to be. And my kids are awesome gifts from God and brilliant people.
But that doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes it's easy. Often it's not. I'm sinful and selfish, and they are sinful too. And all day, our sinful natures rub against each other. And I pray a hundred times over, "Lord help me be kind."
For those of you who know me well, you know that this is a prayer I very much need. Various fruits of the Spirit come a bit more naturally to some than others.
"But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22
Kindness does not come naturally to me. In particular, patience, kindness, and gentleness are the biggest struggle for me. That doesn't mean the others come easily...just not quite as hard.
Yet my kids need their mom to be patient and kind and gentle. And so I pray, "Lord, help me be kind." "Lord, help me to not rush them." "Lord, help me to chill out."
This morning, we set out on a lovely bike ride after a slow (and easy) morning at home. Like I mentioned, the kids climbed a willow tree, and I had a picnic packed for this perfect morning. Lovely. But, as so often happens, life didn't go as I had scripted. Rather, the morning took a turn that involved a dramatic, exhausting, outflow of emotion from one child, significant defiance from another child, and a mom whose patience and gentleness and kindness was put to the test. I did actually remain fairly calm and level-headed (growth!). But I definitely fell short of offering the patient, gentle love that one child was looking for, and I fell short of the firm self-controlled discipline that the other child needed. I was exasperated and out of words and also probably selfish in just wanting to be able to enjoy my bike ride on a perfect summer morning.
So now it's only 12:30 and although all is calm again, my patience is running on empty.
So I pray, "Lord, help me be patient."
I think one of the most difficult things about parenting is that my four children, all at the same time, need me to be something different for them. It's also one of the glorious things about parenting...that these four children who all came from the same source, are so very different one from the other. It's mind-blowing and staggering and so awesome how God does that. And brilliant to watch as their personalities and interests unfold before my eyes.
It's also hard.
Because one needs me to be loving and patient while another needs me to be joyful and crazy, while another needs me to listen intuitively, while another needs me to practice self-control and discipline gently. And it's not even a stretch to say that I have to be all these ways (using as many fruits of the Spirit as possible), at the same time on a daily basis. Wow!
And I fall short. And I know you do too. And I know that really, that's okay. Because God is the perfect parent, not me. And when I fall short, I can point my children to their Heavenly Father who never falls short, and who is, at all times, 100% exuding each one of the fruits of His own Spirit. Personifying them. Living fully as patient and loving and joyful and self-controlled and gentle and peaceful...and so on. It's amazing.
So I know in the long run that it's okay for me to fall short. But, it's so hard in the moment to not feel like I'm completely screwing up my kids' life when I just can't give another hug or can't discipline disobedience kindly or can't listen to another story or can't watch during yet another "Mom watch this!" moment.
And so I pray, "Lord, help me be kind."
And then God, in His constant goodness and faithfulness, does in fact help me be kind, offering a hundred more opportunities for me to practice kindness in a capacity that is bigger than I can do alone. I need His help.
Last night I scolded a child too harshly. The child cried, knowing that the scolding was too harsh for the situation. After I apologized, the child gave me the biggest hug and said, "Mom, I forgive you. You're the best mom in the world. No one could have a better Mom than you."
That is the kindness of God right there.
I don't deserve those words. But none of us deserve the kindness and love of God, do we?
Yet he gives it and gives it and gives it.
And he helps us to give it too.
And that's why I pray, "Lord, help me be kind."