"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

07 March 2014

"I Don't WANT to Disobey!"

We have enjoyed the merciful gift of having N home with us the past couple weeks since Baby A was born. His presence at home, along with the generous and delicious meals with which beautiful friends have supplied us, has enabled me to carry a lighter load in these early days of caring for a newborn. 

Little B has especially delighted in having Daddy home, but the combination of N being home, me being unavailable to B at times, a new baby in the house (who he ADORES, by the way), and the emotional turmoil of being a three-year old has thrown B for a loop. He has had more meltdowns, timeouts, irrational yelling (because we told him he couldn't eat the entire pan of cinnamon rolls), and and defiance in the past two weeks than he has in the first three years of his entire life. We know that it's this age and also this season of adjustment, rather than his heart, that is to blame. We understand that he is feeling like his world is all wrong and is trying to exert some degree of normalcy and control in his life.

But knowing all that, we also know that it is our job as his parents to continue to help him develop his character, to train him up, to point him to Jesus. 

It is just so hard to see our compassionate, sweet, encouraging little boy get into trouble so much. We wonder if we're being too hard on him.

Yesterday, I overheard N talking to B following a timeout. N explained to our little boy that he could trust Mommy and Daddy, because we love him and want what is best for him. He told him that it isn't good to disobey us, because we make decisions to keep him safe and healthy.

B responded, "But I don't want to disobey!" 

Something in my heart resonated so deeply with that honest little exclamation.

A group of fellow moms and I are reading through Desperate. To make it feasible (and not overwhelming, which would be counterproductive), we meet once a month and discuss two chapters at each meeting. We keep it informal, discussing what we underlined or highlighted, how the topics the authors brought up resonated with us, and so forth.

We met last night, and one phrase had stood out to all of us from this month's reading. Here's the preceding excerpt: 

As the undeniable reality of my own sin nature convicted me of how I view my children, I was reminded of something I had read in one of Sally's books. In Mission of Motherhood, she wrote about being frustrated with her children. She felt like her efforts weren't proving fruitful, and no matter what she did with her children or how many times she told them what to do, it wasn't working. 

And then:

Clay said to her, "Honey, at what age did you stop sinning? Because that's when our children will stop."


You see, when I heard B so earnestly say, "But I don't want to disobey," I understood so thoroughly how he felt. Because I feel that way a lot. I mess up, over and over again, and often, it's in the same ways.* There are lessons I think I've learned, and then circumstances happen, and I fall short yet again. I forget to hold my tongue, I forget to be disciplined, I forget to give grace.

I forget to listen to Abba's instructions.

I don't want to disobey, but my brokenness gets the better of me and more often than I care to admit, I allow my impulsive, reactive sin-self to trump my desire-to-please-Jesus heart.

Hearing my little boy utter those words made me realize that he needs so much grace.

And encouragement.

And love.
If I, as a mostly rational, mature adult, struggle with complete trust and consistent obedience, how can I possibly expect that from my still-growing, small child? I need Jesus in every moment; so do my children. He doesn't condemn me for my repeated failures to obey, because I am His child**; neither should we ever condemn our children for their shortcomings.

Sarah Mae summed it up perfectly:

"'Son, you have a heart that wants to be bad. ...I also have a heart that wants to be bad. In fact, all of us do. But you know what? Jesus, God's Son, came to earth, and He had a good, perfect, beautiful heart, and He died so that we could have a heart like His. When we believe in Jesus, and we want to be like Him, He gives us a new, good heart! In fact, He not only gives us a heart that wants to follow Him, He put His very Spirit into ours, and it becomes one! Yes, we'll still do bad things sometimes, but He knows we want to be like Him, and He helps us. He loves you, buddy, and so do I, and because you know Him, you have a beautiful heart.'
Last night, when I got home from my book group, I quietly stepped into B's room and ran my fingers over his warm, sleeping face. I whispered, "I love you so much, buddy" and chuckled as he muttered, "What sayed?" I smoothed out the blankets around him, kissed his cheeks, and just watched him for a few precious moments. And I prayed that the Lord would continue to provide reminders for me, as He was faithful to do during my pregnancy with B, that this little boy is His first. That He loves him infinitely more than I do. That where I fail him as his earthly mama, God will not ever fail him as his Heavenly Abba. That none of what is ultimately important has anything to do with me and everything to do with God. And that I need to pass on that lesson to my children.

This morning, in my reading from our fraying copy of My Utmost of His Highest, Chambers reminded me of that same truth:

"The bedrock of our Christian faith is the unmerited, fathomless marvel of the love of God exhibited on the Cross of Calvary, a love we never can and never shall merit. Paul says this is the reason we are more than conquerors in all these things, super-victors, we a joy we would not have but for the very things which look as if they are going to overwhelm us. 

...Undaunted radiance is not built on anything passing, but on the love of God that nothing can alter. The experiences of life, terrible or monotonous, are impotent to touch the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

I want to speak life and truth into my children's hearts and spirits. I'm realizing more and more that this begins with me soaking my own heart with those same things, and that I need to be honest with my children about my own failures. We need to keep growing together, towards the same end, on the same team. 
I tell my children quite frequently, 
"Mommy needs help just like you. 
I need Jesus every day because I mess up, 
but He is gracious to love me and help, 
and He will help you, too. 
We're in this together."

~ Sarah Mae, Desperate

*Romans 7:15
**Romans 8:1