Friday, September 16, 2011

The Mothering Chronicles 2: Patience and Love

Time evaporates--don't you find--like a meringue or cotton candy. I used to imagine that as my boys grew in independence I'd surely find more time to write and yet I'm discovering that in fact, the opposite has proven true. And speaking of boys--sweet boys--mine are growing. And with their growth I find that my world somehow shrinks. I'm in that phase of life where if I didn't carefully wrap my dreams and goals and place them safely away, I could perhaps lose them--lose myself even. It's the mothering time of life for me. The time when football and Robin Hood trump reading the home decorating magazine and when taking them to the skate park seems a better choice than a quiet cup of tea on my deck with a Maya Angelou novel. To trade a moment of what they need for what I may want is almost unthinkable. My day will come again, but for now, for now? For now, it is them. There are afternoons or days or even weeks when we are a babbling brook dancing our way over the time-smoothed pebbles that fill our lives, times when we are a melodious foursome happy and content in all things. Then there are moments when the harmony of mom, dad, and sons is somewhat akin to the call of a blue jay or a crow at some horribly early hour, and I cringe, thinking surely this isn't what God wants. And how it pains the heart of a parent to see that miniature version of yourself making choices that hurt themselves and your family. Tempting it is to spend hours searching the internet for the wisdom of some sage pastor or some great author with several books on Amazon proving their merit as an expert on my child. And I'll admit I've googled 'developmental stages of boys' in hopes of discovering some new key to unlocking the behavior I desperately want to see in my little guys. The thing about parenting that I'm discovering is this--it's very personal. It's a walk through a road that I believe is intended to show us the love of our Father as we love our own. So, I find myself over and over--knees callousing--at His feet asking for wisdom. He did promise, after all to give it fully and willingly. And there at His feet I've been affirmed. He loves because He is love. He loves both me and those sweet boys of mine. He sees the moldable hearts of my boys, and He sees the ache in my own heart. "I know, and I'm sovereign." "I'll not abandon the work of my hands." "Don't grow weary in well doing." Don't grow weary. Sometimes when it comes to parenting we want instant behavior changes. We want to say, "Listen here, buddy, I'm the momma! You're the boy, and you are gonna do what I say!" But, how gentle God is with us, how patient He remains with us when we are out of tune with His life within us. If I parent like that, I may get an immediate behavior change, but I've lost the heart of my child. That is sprint parenting when in fact we are running a marathon. I'm not as concerned with the immediate behavior of my son as I am the long-term bent of his heart. II Thessalonians 3:5 says, "May the Lord lead your hearts in God's love and Christ's patience." Ahh, a mothering key. Two keys in fact. God's love. Christ's patience. Apparently, it is desirable that we be lead into both since Paul took the time to utter them on behalf on the Thessalonians. Here is the thing about God's love. When Paul says may you be lead into God's love he may as well have said may you be lead into God. God and love. The two are interchangeable. God is love. The fruit of God within us--His Holy Spirit--is love. Love comes from His life within us. It is not a trait of God; it is God. Immediately then, I am reminded of the abiding principles in John 15. "Apart from me, you can do nothing." If we are to be filled with God's love as we parent, we must take time to abide in Love. Saying it is a challenge to find time to abide to a mother of little ones is like saying the earth is round. Yeah. We know. And you'll never hear me say it should be done for half an hour at six in the morning. I might as well swear at you. Here's what I do recommend. There's a great little book called, Jesus Calling written by Sarah Young. Get your hands on it. If you have time for nothing else in your day, read this before you get out of bed. A short two or three paragraph encouragement written from the perspective of God, you will be sustained by mostly scripture paraphrased in words we understand. (Incidentally, that's why I like it.) And get into the Psalms. Those are two great places to glean spiritual vitamins when you may not have time for the full meal. God will grant you days when feasting happens, but in between, have some simple way to drink deeply from the love of God. And let me just say, as much as I love to blog, don't depend entirely on blogs. Of course I hope you'll keep reading mine when you have time, but taking your nourishment only from blogs or even most books is similar to drinking coffee from your husband's cup in the morning. God wants to meet with you. He wants to fill your cup. Then there's that word. Patience. Just the other day I asked my mom, a prayer warrior, what specifically she'd been praying for me. She gave me her list, and I told her she needed to add patience to the list. I don't know what prompted me to ask for such a thing--maybe it was because my son told me my voice got high and squeaky earlier in the day when I was frustrated, and he was concerned I might be struggling with self-control. Saint Augustine once said, "Patience is the companion of wisdom," and Alexander Dumeas Pere said, "All patience is summed up in two words--wait and hope." I would add that patience is but a fruit of God's Spirit within. Patience is the overflow of the wisdom that comes from understanding that we wait, we hope, in the goodness of God where our children are concerned. They may be 2 and pitching a tantrum or twenty and high as a kite. Either way, our real anchor is the knowledge that God's concern over those children is greater than our own. He is working in their lives. He loves them. He cares what happens to them. He is orchestrating circumstances to reveal Himself to them. Taking a step back from the permanent marker smiley faces drawn all over the freshly painted wall long enough to remember, 'God is revealing Himself to my children right now, through me,' may be just the amount of waiting and hoping it takes to display the fruit of patience. They're not perfect. Neither are we. But, we're the mothers. Our role is one of patience and one of love. At the risk of being misunderstood, let me say both love and patience will sometimes mean consequences. But when those things come from a heart that is filled, one that has taken time to abide in The Source of patience and love, they are so much more readily received. If you'll give me some room here, I'd like to address a practical picture of this. Let me say ahead of time, I'm not addressing corporal punishment--that's a larger can of worms. But, if you'll hear me out, I think you'll understand where I'm going with this. Often in the heat of the moment, we are tempted to pop our kids a little swat on their chubby bottoms. I'm talking about the screaming kid that gets a quick swat. Let me ask you this, when you are furious with your husband over some situation, would it help at all if he gave you a smack on the backside? Usually when we are frustrated to the point of tantrum, what we desperately need is someone to stop the music, press the pause button on life and say, "Can you tell me what you are feeling?" A swat doesn't teach the heart. Our goal as moms is not to gain the immediate behavior we want at the loss of our child's heart. Our goal is to pack enough fuel in our pockets to take us on the quest for their hearts. That means we may leave the grocery cart in the store filled with groceries, (I've done it) and calmly walk to the car. We may say quietly, "I can see you are so upset we won't be able to talk right now, but I'm going to take you home where you are safe. I want you to be able to calm down, and I love you." Then, more often than not, that raging child will be asleep by the time we are home. When they wake, they will be calmer and ready for some teaching. Or they may squawk and scream for the next two hours. Either way. We wait. We hope. (Read: practice patience) When they are calm, we address the behavior. We let them know they will never get the candy bar by screaming, even if we're forced to call Grandma to pick up milk and bread because we left the grocery store ten days in a row! We teach them why that doesn't work. We may even give them a chance to try the entire scenario again the next day after we've walked them through how it will go ahead of time. Did I mention that mothering is not convenient? It interferes with our schedule, and may mean that we have to eat dry cereal for breakfast because the milk was left in the buggy at the Piggly Wiggly. Here's the reality, most of us are not patient enough to be that inconvenienced. Come on now. You just read that scenario, and the idea of not picking up your prescription and desert for tonight's dinner guests is making your hair stand on end! Not. Repeat. NOT convenient. So, we give in and let them have the candy bar, or we swat them on the booty. And they may in fact be quiet because they got a good smack. Either way, we lose. Patience says, "I'll slow this down. I'll be inconvenienced. I'll pause my agenda long enough to orchestrate a world where I can reveal the love of God to my sweet child in the hopes of winning him to Christ." Maybe I should have said the prerequisite for patience is this: Expect to be inconvenienced. Children are not convenient. They are precious people with their own feelings, thoughts, perspectives and ideas. They are made in the image of God and we should give them the same respect we expect from them. Here's what I'm convinced of. Mothering is a reflection of God to our children. We're doing our level best to mirror Him to them. We are their first experience of God. We will need to take some time, even if it is only two minutes, to drink from Him because the things we wish to reveal are fruits of His life within us, not a manufacturable parenting commodity we can otherwise muster. One of my favorite passages is I Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us..." Recently, my husband pointed out that indeed we do have everything we need for life and godliness, but it comes through knowledge of God. Knowledge alone puffs up and inflates our opinions of ourselves, but knowledge applied is a totally different animal. That, my dear mothering friends, is wisdom. May we apply the knowledge of our Father who is both love and patience in our homes like a balm that covers the wounds, that protects the hearts, that softens the edges, that guides the personalities, and that restores the natural rhythm to our families. Pray with me: Father, I'm not always patient. I'm not always loving. I'm human in every way. But I long to reflect you to my children. I long to create an environment in our home that is perfumed with your presence. Help me father to learn to wait and hope--not in my abilities, but in your sovereignty. Fill me with yourself. Overflow from me. Read with me: I Corinthians 13

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written Sarah. I find the Lord uses my children as a mirror, their shortcomings are ones I too struggle with and He is faithful to remind me of HIS patience with His wayward child (me).