I can't think of anything in my own life journey as humbling as parenting. I know that whatever journey God has planned for your life, He uses something in that journey (or many things) to shape your heart into humility. That's probably why we so often are drawn to the respectable and honorable humility of our elderly loved ones. Their hearts have been shaped to humility over many decades of trials and struggle, and its a beautiful thing.
But its not an easy thing. Hardly anything good is easy, right?
For me and my journey, at least during this season of my journey, God is using parenting to shape my heart toward humility. I'm not sure if we're making any progress, but I know he's working on it. And I know I'm failing more than succeeding. My children are my greatest joy, and yet parenting is my greatest challenge. Why is that?
Yesterday evening I took my girls to skating lessons. They took a six-week course last winter too, but due to financial restraints and the craziness of four kids, I had dismissed the idea of skating lessons for this winter. But the other night when I was tucking the girls in, they asked about it.
"Mom, please? We loved skating lessons last year. Please can we do it again this winter?"
I went upstairs, discussed it with Paul, and we both decided to go for it - to make the schedule work, to find other places we can cut back on expenses to make room for skating lessons in the budget, and just jump in. Funny thing - there was an opening in the Thursday class for both girls the very next day.
The girls were THRILLED in the morning when I told them. Absolutely thrilled all day. But then when we got there, and they stepped on the ice, it all went downhill. I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say that the skating lesson ended in two sobbing, wailing girls, presenting an opportunity for mama to rise to the task of being the humble, compassionate mama they probably needed, and I fell short. I'm pretty sure that if I had been able to keep calm in the midst of their tantrums, all would have ended well. But I didn't stay calm. I was upset that our gift to them of skating lessons was starting horribly. I tried, but I failed at giving the compassion they needed, and our night was rough because of it.
This morning I was trying to get my kids out of the house to get Lily to preschool. The morning had been moving along fine - Griffin got me up about 5:30AM, so I was tired, but I got four kids fed, Evie to the bus, the Christmas tree needles all vacuumed after taking the tree out last night, laundry started...it was productive and fairly calm. And then, of course, right as we were trying to get out the door, no one had shoes on, or coats on, Gregory was 100% involved in his transformer airplane and had no clue that I was talking to him, Lily was in her own little world making a craft, and Griffin fell down and banged his forehead, which resulted in alot a screaming and a huge bump.
Really? All at the moment we're supposed to be leaving?
So then I yell at them.
AGGGHHH. Why? It's not like I should be surprised. I should have expected that everything would fall apart in the minute we were supposed to leave the house...it almost always does. Just like your house probably.
A calm stern voice would have prompted them as well, yet without the fretting.
We all know that yelling at our kids doesn't make us feel better - it actually makes us even angrier and then piles guilt on top of the anger. And it wounds our kids.
It's not that parents shouldn't get angry at our children. If our children are disobeying or throwing tantrums it's our responsibility to discipline and correct behavior, for sure. But the Bible says, "In your anger, do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26) Being angry at disobedience is good and right. Sinning in our anger (like yelling at our kids, for example) is not okay.
And I am guilty WAY TOO MUCH. Every day, many times over. And it's humbling. And it grieves my heart.
Because I want to shape my kids' hearts to understand the love of God. And my job as a parent is to teach them and show them that God's heart toward them is loving and good all the time. In the midst of obedience God's heart toward them is good. And in the midst of disobedience, God's heart toward them is good. God disciplines and punishes sin for sure, but He does it in love. He doesn't lash out yelling at us for foolish things like "we're running late" (Which, by the way, is almost always my fault anyway...did I really need to throw in that extra load of laundry and then rush my kids? No.)
And these children that I rush and raise my voice at way too often are God's greatest gift to me, outside of salvation and my husband. God's great treasure that He has entrusted to me. Why did He entrust them to me? I don't know. I'm so not worthy. But He did. So who am I to yell at them for foolish things and cause their hearts to fret and question the unwavering constant love of God?
Growing up, I hated being yelled at. HATED IT. I'm sure everyone does. And I swore that I would never yell at my kids. One day when I was doing youth ministry, during a high school Bible study, I commented to my students that when Paul and I had kids I was going to commit to not yelling at them. I vividly remember one of the high school guys laughing at me and saying, "Yeah right. All moms yell."
He's probably right. And it makes me sad. I think of that almost every day. Because probably almost every day I fail and I yell at my kids, at some point, for something, almost always unnecessarily.
And I am quite certain it's an issue of pride vs. humility.
In my sinful pride, I think I have a "right" to stand above my child, raise my voice, and yell at my children and make them feel small and show them that I am big and in charge.
I hate typing that sentence, but really, that's what it is, right?
A few years back there was a movie with Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson that I don't remember the name of and I don't think I liked it or would recommend it, but there was one profound moment that I probably won't ever forget. Jack Nicholson played Paul Rudd's father, a father that was emotionally detached and cold. In one scene Jack Nicholson was yelling at his adult son, and Paul Rudd said, "Stop yelling at me. I can't hear you when you yell at me."
So true. Yelling doesn't make us listen - it shuts us down.
There are other ways to discipline. In humility, I should humble myself and get down on their level, and look them in the eye, and explain, sometimes sternly, what the misbehavior is and how it needs correcting. Because that's how Jesus does it. He humbles himself, He comes to us, on our level, and meets with us face to face and eye to eye and shows us how to love and obey. He doesn't tower above us and yell. That's not God's heart. God's heart is humble. Good and holy and just and righteous and also humble. And that's what He is calling me to.
The other night Paul and I were talking after the kids were in bed, and Paul said, "Who am I, that I should have the honor of laying my hands on my children at night and praying for God's blessing to cover them?"
I know right? Who am I? I'm the one that yelled at them and rushed them today and made their hearts feel insecure, and then I have this tremendous honor of praying over them? Why? I don't deserve it.
I often take comfort in something that Gary Thomas wrote about it Sacred Parenting. It's a tremendous book that I'd recommend to every parent. He was talking about how our children don't need us to be perfect parents. Our responsibility as Christian parents is certainly to strive to honor God in our parenting and to become more like Jesus in our parenting, but we are in fact sinful and we will in fact fail. But he said in our failures, our sacred responsibility as parents is to point our children to their heavenly Father who IS perfect. Our children's hearts were created to know a perfect love. My love and your love are not perfect.
But we can point them to the Love that IS Perfect, and His name is Jesus.
So when I sin against my children and yell at them in pride, then my obligation is to come back to them in humility and say "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?" And to remind them that Mommy needs a Savior too.
It's a journey to humility. And it's painful. But I think it's so worth it. As our hearts become shaped more like Jesus' heart, we can love more like him and experience joy more like him and shepherd hearts more like Him and simply know Him more.
And that's a journey worth journeying.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.