My friend and I decided to treat our girls to a fun afternoon of bowling. We had a wonderful time, however, leaving is always a challenge. Every time a fun outing comes to an end, as they all do, my kid is the one losing her mind. This happens frequently over the smallest reasons, and I know that I am not the only one. That day, it looked like crossed arms, a stank face with stomping feet and an attitude.
I was desperately trying to figure out how to communicate, kindly, that she needs to simply be grateful for what she's been given, however, I did not succeed and failed miserably. Surprise surprise. Her show kept on and my frustration grew, so i got in her ear and said something very sharp. Not only that, but when mom's mean business, they enunciate ev-er-y syll-a-ble - very slowly, just to be sure you GET IT.
"You better fix your attitude - Right Now!" To which she responded, "Mommy, I can't fix my attitude by myself."
I was stunned - The Holy Spirit was teaching me 2 things.
1.) She can't change her heart - DUH.
2.) If I am disconnected from Jesus, even momentarily, then how can I expect her to be be connected?
He was showing me just how lazy I am in my parenting at times, and how much I resort to behavior modification. Of course she can't change her attitude, I can't change mine either. The Holy Spirit is the only one capable of heart change. I was essentially asking a broken branch to pop out a lemon - it just doesn't work like that. Scripture simply puts it like this:
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." John 15:4
I have heard this message time and time again, which is why get so annoyed with myself. I KNOW THIS, but for some reason I resort to the road of least resistance, and I don't know why, because it is repeatedly unsuccessful. The Lord is patient though, and kind, leading me even still.
He wants our hearts, not our behaviors, and He wants the same from our children.
When I choose my way of leading, over His way, I'm ultimately cheating her out of something deeper. Following Jesus calls us to lead our children higher, out of behavior modification and into the freedoms of heart transformation.
This is a direct result of my own disconnection from the vine. So on a deeper lever, this all points back to me.
After my realization, I replied to her with, "You're right kid, you can't change your attitude. Why did mommy ask that of you?" She was surprised and quite puzzled as you could imagine. She probably felt particularly triumphant and full of wisdom as I folded.
We are called to be in constant connection with the Father, because it is the only way His love flows freely through us. His love is slow and kind, constant and patient. His love corrects in truth and love. Connection and communication with Jesus keeps our hearts centered on His leading hand. It also sets forth a model of Jesus' love for our babies.
Timothy Keller tweeted this, "Religion says, I obey therefore I am accepted by God. Gospel says, I am accepted by God through Christ, therefore I obey."
In my parenting, I want to always lead my children to the love of the cross. Out of that, I pray that my babies obey [only] out of a knowledge of the truest of loves - The saving blood of Jesus.
His redeeming love propels me forward in my life and in my parenting, to get up and try again. His love washes our failures and gives us another shot.
I will remind you of a scripture that I stand on in those dark times of my shortcomings as a mom, and a wife for that matter...
"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8