Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lessons from Parenthood

Miles is my clothes horse.  He loves clothes.  He loves to dress and undress himself.  Part of me is proud of his independence.  Most of me is annoyed by all the discarded clothes I find all over the house from his many costume changes.  This morning we got into a battle of wills.

Miles had already changed out of his pajamas into different pajamas.  An hour later he stripped off the new pajamas and asked for his shark shirt and some pants.  I got the requested clothes for him but instead of putting them on or letting me help him get dressed Miles ran away with an impish giggle.  I said, "Fine.  You can just be naked."  And I tossed his clothes on his bed and walked out of the room.

The scream which followed was loud and high pitched.  "I want my cwothes on!" followed by the tell-tale thumping of feet and fists hitting the ground in a full blown tantrum.  I ignored it.

A few minutes later Miles came to me, repentant, holding his clothes and asking for "Help, pwease."  But when I sat down to help him get dressed he kicked at me and twisted his body away shouting, "No!  No! No!"  Ha.  I was the parent and I was not going to play this game a second longer.  I wrestled him into his shark shirt and a pair of jeans.

Once he was dressed, Miles stood before me red-faced and angry.  He tried to take his shirt off, "Not yike dis shirt!"  But I held his hands down and calmly but firmly stated, "You will keep your shirt on."  He went for his pants next but I stopped him again, "If you take your clothes off you will have a time out."   Cue the screaming fit of rage.  This time I held him close and rocked him until his cries were just whimpers.

"Are you ready for breakfast?"  He nodded.  "Would you like some oatmeal?"  He shook his head.  "Toast?"  No.  "Cereal?" No.   I stood him up in front of me.  "Would you like to tell me what you want?"  He nodded again.

"Okay, what would you like, Miles?"  His answer surprised, amused, and humbled me.

"I want to fight," he growled and started to come at me with a fist.  I couldn't help it...I laughed.  And I instantly saw, in him, myself as an independent toddler before my Heavenly Father.

We do this don't we?  We ask God for something and when he gives it to us we decide to run away. (Hello, Jonah!)  We say we don't want it after all.  Or maybe we do want it but only on our terms...and we expect God to bend his rules to play our games.

And don't we do this with other people, too?  When our games are not played and we don't get what we want, God or the other person become "The Opponent" and it doesn't matter if apologies are made or even if we are offered comfort.  We still want to fight.  Maybe we don't actually raise our fists, but our little hearts are punching away.  Biases are formed.  Walls are built.  Grudges are born.

I know I do this in my marriage.   My feelings get hurt.  Geary is heartbroken that I am hurt and does everything he can to make it right.  He apologizes.  He professes his love.  We hug.  And when the whole thing should be over and done with what is it that I still want to do?  Make Geary hurt as much as I did.  I want to fight.  Ugh!  Wretched, sinful me.

Or how about when finally submit and we have the awesome privilege of seeing God's will accomplished but it's not how we would have done it?  Again, like Jonah, we sulk on our hills and want to fight.  The patience of God is INCREDIBLE.  It's a wonder that people imagine God with long silver Gandalf hair.  If I were God (and let's all be thankful that I'm not) I think I would be bald from pulling my hair out over the ridiculousness of people!

This post is not about conflict.  Conflict is good.  Conflict is an opportunity to wrestle, struggle, and grow.  We can and should embrace conflict if it's going to serve the purpose of gaining peace.  We want to be peace-makers (which is different from being peace-keepers, by the way).

What I am talking about here is self entitlement.  I'm talking about pride, selfishness, and sin.   Fighting because we think it will somehow give us power.   Fighting because we think we have the right to be petty and hold onto our hurts.  As if God owes us anything! Fighting because we forget that the surest way of winning is to lay down our lives for others. Fighting because we are choosing to be the kings of our own lives instead of recognizing and submitting to Jesus as the supreme authority and King of kings.  Fighting for the sake of hurting someone else so that we don't have to be alone in our hurt.

Guess what?  God tells us to drop our self entitled fighting.

"Be still, and know that I am God.  

I will be exalted among the nations, 

I will be exalted in the earth!"

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

Oh, how we love to quote this verse.  Especially when we see a gorgeous sunrise or a sparkling waterfall and we just want to stop for a moment and marvel at God's creation.   But that's not what this "Be still" means.  This "Be still" is one Hebrew word: raphah.  And it means:
let go
cease striving
become helpless
hang down

NASB:  Cease striving and know that I am God.

YLT:  Desist and know that I am God.

GWT:  Let go [of your concerns].  Then you will know that I am God.

HCSB:  Stop [your fighting] and know that I am God.

In context this command is addressed to the warring nations.  "Stop fighting and recognize that I am the ultimate authority and King of all kings."   But I think it can be addressed to our warring hearts, too.  "Chill out!  I'm the one on the throne."

Guess what else?  The similar Hebrew word, rapha means:

to become fresh
completely healed
made whole

We are not alone in our hurt.  Jesus became an injurable human and experienced all the hurts that we do.  And then he took all our sin and hurts and the ways we've hurt others and became sin for us.  He took the punishment for it so that we could be with him in the presence of God, blameless and holy.  And he sent the Holy Spirit to be with us in all things. God cares so very much about our hurts.  He is our balm, he binds our wounds and our broken hearts, and he remembers all of our tears*.  We can be comforted by him and drop the self entitled fight.  Instead of holding on to our pet hurts we can be made fresh, pure, and completely healed and whole.  Isn't that so much better than fighting?

I wish that Miles had given up his fight this morning.  Instead he asked for cereal with milk and purposefully poured his bowl onto his shark shirt and then told me, "It's too wet!  It's too wet.  Need a new shirt."  The little manipulator.

I never know how to wrap up these Lessons from Parenthood.  With a thankful prayer, I guess.

Father, thank you for letting me see myself in Miles.  Thank you for teaching me and for having patience with my ridiculous behavior.  Thank you for using my children to spur me on toward holiness.  Please forgive me for the times I've wanted to hold onto my hurt or anger and keep fighting you.  You are God.  I am not.  You are the King.  I am not.  You deserve to be exalted and I want to exalt you by being obedient.  Please help me to remember that you are God and to stop my self entitled fighting.  Thank you for healing my wounds and making me fresh.  Your mercies are never ending.  Amen.
*Psalm 56:8


  1. Enjoyed reading this Jeana! Miles and CJ must be reading off the same page. We've had lots of spills or even "accidents" just to get more than the normally allotted number of costume changes. :) Sometimes he bends his "poochy lip" so low and just wants to stay that way, with arms crossed. "I just want to be grumpy," he says. And being so much more sophisticated, I justify my grumpiness so well...

  2. Amen and amen. Loved you thoughts, Jeana. You are so good at expressing your "life lessons", thanks for posting this.

  3. I found your site by chance while browsing on Pinterest - interesting how the Lord brings messages to each of us and can do it in ways that we never expect (through our children or through something altogether different like Pinterest)! I'm expecting our first child in April of this year and found your post uplifting and encouraging as I'm looking forward to the blessings and challenges of parenting. I'm constantly amazed at how gracious and good God is to us and how He continues to work in our lives despite the barriers we throw up in the way (constantly it seems). I've been missing fellowship lately - just recently took the step of joining a church here (NC) and really haven't found good fellowship yet. This "accidental" find (which we know wasn't accidental) was a taste and reminder of fellowship I've treasured before and still long for. God's using you, in the lives of those you may see everyday and even a few all the way on the opposite coast! (I'm the same Sarah that posted about your wheat bread recipe - that's how I found this post.) Thank you for being a vessel of God's love to me - I thank Him for you!

  4. Thank you, Sarah! I'm so glad you commented, what an encouragment you. I hope you're able to develop a close community of friends in your new home soon.


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