I've been freaking out lately (and when I say lately, I mean for months now).
No, really. It's true. I've been sort of drowning in fear. Trying to tread water, but going UNDER a LOT!! And while flailing my arms about like someone who's never had a single swimming lesson, I've lost sight of the One I should have been looking to all along. I've forgotten all I've learned. I've forgotten where "my help comes from." (Psalm 121:1-2)
You see? When you have four children, and they're all so YOUNG, and they manage to get into all manner of trouble on a regular basis, and one of them won't talk (much) and is stubborn beyond words (so to speak), and one of them depends on YOU to be physically able to provide his most important meals of the day (i.e. babies need to nurse), and one of them challenges you at every turn and never wants to do anything you ask him to do, and one of them does NOT learn things easily and without help, and it is up to YOU to feed, clothe, nurture, teach, train, clean up after, and spend quality time with these kiddos...you sort of start s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. You start noticing how TIRED your arms are and how there's not much KICK left in your legs and GOLLEEEEE the water is deep and COLD and DARRRRKK! And then you realize it's time to pay bills (AGAIN), and there are some significant ones this month, and you are trying to buy healthier foods, but the blasted budget NEVER seems to allow for as much as you really want to be buying. And don't forget the two to three loads of laundry you've got to do (per day!) or there won't be any underwear...or diapers (and you definitely don't want that)! And, hello? Don't you think you'd better get the filing done, vacuum occasionally, dust (yeah, right), and AT LEAST wipe off the counters and kitchen table so you can EAT!?! And then you look to your left and see that your husband is even farther away than he was the last time you looked (thanks to all those hearings right in a row and his OWN physical exhaustion).
One in such a predicament can't help but think...
I'll never get through to my son.
I'm failing my daughter.
The toddler and baby won't be any better off, because who has time to train THEM when I'm spending all my time on the first two?
I don't spend enough quality time with any of them.
We'll never get all our debt paid off.
The food I've been giving my kids is poisoning them.
It's all a conspiracy!
We're ALL going to die of cancer (or Alzheimer's).
Unless, of course, America becomes a war zone FIRST.
How will I ever be as self-sufficient as I may need to be?
There are a million viruses on my computer, and I don't know how to get them off!
All the appliances keep breaking because nothing's made well anymore.
I've wasted so much of my time.
I'm afraid I'm becoming a monster in the eyes of my kids.
I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore. (Sleep would probably help, but...when is that going to happen?)
My husband must think I'm hideous.
These thoughts (and the like) tend to drive the attitude of the heart this way: What's the point of eating well when it costs so MUCH? We're all going to die sometime anyway! It's probably too late to make a difference. Why should I bother with having the kids do chores anymore? They don't care what this house looks like. I don't understand why they keep disobeying. Nothing I do or say makes any difference anyway! Dinner schminner. Fend for yourself! We just won't ever have company again! So there! No, no, no. You can't do anything fun whatsoever! You don't deserve it!
And while it doesn't help to worry and fret about how we're doing with raising our children, and while it's imperative that we remember it is God's work in them, not our own, that doesn't give us license to shirk our responsibility toward them. After all, God has given us authority over them. It is our calling. We have no choice.
Something I've been learning lately (and when I say lately, I mean for the past couple of years...but it's STILL not been fully driven into this thick skull of mine) is that we, as parents, are no different in the eyes of God from our own children! We like to THINK that because we are grown up, we are "closer" to God, "closer" to deserving His grace. But REALLY we are NOT any more deserving of His grace than our seven-year-olds who deliberately disobey our direct commands, or our five-year-olds who like to whine and argue, or our toddlers who say "No!" to us. We are all in the same boat. The very same sinking ship. And we would all drown if it weren't for His saving grace, His abiding love, His mercies which are new each and every morning. And we don't deserve ANY of His goodness!
So, then. When that seven-year old disobeys, how shall I respond? When the proverbial steam is shooting from my ears and my eyes are rolling around in my head uncontrollably, I mean. HOW shall I respond? Well, I wish I could say that I always respond in the way that my Father responds to my wickedness. I wish I could say that my children are amazed at the way I love them and forgive them for their foolish ways. I wish I could say that they think of me as gentle and kind and sweet. I wish I could say they are ready and willing to please me at every turn because I'm such an awesome mommy. I wish.
Learning to respond biblically to their sin is the single hardest thing I think I will EVER have to learn, because it is just so foreign to my personality. I just think they should WANT to please me, that they should take NOTICE of the fact that I've been washing the POO out of their diapers and wiping up the toilets where they've missed and creating delicious (...ahem..) meals for them to savor and singing each and every blooming night to them (even when my heart isn't in it) and picking up their books and blocks and crayons and trash and clothes and insert random object here for the one millionth time today and driving them to this activity and that activity and taking them to church and buckling them in safety seats and nursing them back to health and putting up with their cranky, selfish attitudes!!! They should totally take notice.
But they don't. The stinkers.
They don't. 'Cause they're 7 and 5 and 2 and...baby.
And those are the exact ages of people who don't. take. notice.
Begs the question...Wonder WHY I do all that stuff anyway?? Is it so they'll notice???? Is it?? Well, if it is, I might as well hang it up now because that's just stupid. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to be doing those things because SERVING MY FAMILY is SERVING MY GOD, and I should be doing it with a cheerful heart. (After all, I preach that same sermon to my oldest two kiddos every time I ask them to do something to help out and they groan or complain. Such irony. Such irony.)
Back to the point. Which is.......We all like sheep have gone astray. (Isaiah 53:6) Yes, we have.
Think of it like this. According to the Scriptures, your husband is to be "over" you as your protector, the one who takes responsibility for the decisions of the household, the one who will answer to God for the raising of his family. The husband and wife are spiritual equals in the eyes of God, but God has placed your husband over you in authority to provide for you a covering, a safe-haven. In the same way, both parents are placed as authorities over their children, to care for them, to protect them, to teach them. But spiritually, we are all equals. Now, obviously, your seven-year old probably doesn't have as much spiritual wisdom, insight, or experience as you, the parent, but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about where we "land" on the map of lostness.
In the eyes of God, a rapist is no more or less sinful than you or I, though there will certainly be distinct differences with respect to the consequences of those sins. God loves him just the same. Now that's hard for us to fully comprehend, but aren't you glad it's so? Aren't you glad that your very worst sin doesn't somehow place you in some other "bracket" of spiritual sentencing? To know that God sees sin as just that--SIN--and does not rank us all according to our deeds...well, it tells us that He has an incomprehensible and unending love for His children. That's the kind of Father I want.
And, therefore, that's the kind of mother I want to be. I mean, if your child grew up to be an embezzler or a murderer does that mean your LOVE for him would END (or be any LESS than the love you have for your other children)??! Of course not! You'd HATE with every fiber of your being that he had chosen such a pathetic existence. You'd grieve that he would suffer consequences untold. You'd worry your head off. And you'd pray every moment of every day that God would save him from himself. But your love would remain. You'd still be the one who had prayed for him to grow inside of you, given birth to him, nursed him, diapered him, played with him, cuddled with him. You'd still be his Mommy. Praise God it is that way with our Heavenly Father.
I have been going through some rough stuff lately. Much of it is due to pure exhaustion. Much of it is due to poor choices in the use of my time. But most of it is due to the fact that I have fallen away from my God. I have TURNED away when I needed Him most. I have acted as if I could handle my life on my own. And I have failed miserably. I have been SO fearful. I have parented out of this fear. I have been so lazy and so detached. I could recognize my children as blessings, but since they didn't ACT very bless-ed, I got angry...a lot. At them! How dare they ruin my idea of what my daily life should look like?! Talk about losing sight! And the fact is...WHO DO I THINK I AM? Am I any better than they? Does God think I'm awesomely perfect or something? Have I suddenly leaped from the plain of "Sinner Saved from Grace" to the plain of "Perfection Attained" high above my children??
Well, ummm, no.
No, I haven't.
Nor will I.
I need to get. over. myself. I need to recognize my depravity and then...instead of wallowing in THAT ('cause that's what I tend to do)...I need to thank and praise my God for loving me ANYWAY, for dying for all my JUNK, and for blessing me with four beautiful children to teach about a God who loves like that. A God who loves THEM like that. MY God. Their God. Our God. The One and Only God.
This portion of an old hymn...is so, so true.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
I think in all my wild, crazy struggling about in the water, I just haven't STOPPED long enough to realize that my feet can actually touch the bottom--they could all along. That there is a firm foundation (His Word) I can stand upon. I can rest now. I really don't have to keep fighting and gasping for air. He already took care of me...on the Cross. What else then do I really have to fear?