“Can’t you just get in the bathtub without arguing?!!”
Daniel and I were nose-to-nose in a typical power struggle. I knew it was going to take most of my intellectual and emotional savvy just to get this grimy little kid in the tub. Of course, once he was happily playing in the water, getting him out would drain the rest of my reserves – just in time for the bedtime battle! I felt my jaw clench and my voice rise as I poured out my exasperation onto Daniel. My shame and discouragement quickly added to the all too familiar scene in those days.
Daniel was extremely bright but highly distractible and strong-willed, setting a pattern of chaos and conflict for his two younger siblings. I desperately tried to cling to a shred of the organization and control I had felt as a competent career woman only a few years before. It seemed that he managed to regularly thwart my efforts to maintain sanity, and my “Crazy Mom” behavior intensified our conflict.
In the bathroom, glaring at my defiant child, I wondered what God thought of our relational mess. I imagined Him sighing and shaking His head in disappointment as He observed.
In that difficult moment, God seemed to whisper to me. In my mind’s eye, totally uncharacteristic for me at the time, I “heard” a phrase of encouragement. I’ll never forget it. I paused, looked thoughtfully at Daniel, and shared it with him, “You know what? – God has so much mercy on us in our struggle!”
I was flooded with the realization that our Heavenly Father knew how hard it was for this passionate, strong-willed son and his control-oriented mother to get along! He made us, He knew us better than we knew ourselves, and He had compassion on us, as is beautifully stated in Psalm 103:13-14:
“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
Daniel was far more responsive to my guidance about tub time that night once we were both peaceful and aware of God’s mercy. But more importantly, the Lord had planted a holy seed of faith which grew over time into a defining perspective: even when I am in my worst struggle, having a meltdown with my children, God is my merciful Helper. In Psalm 73:21-26, the writer describes a “meltdown” of his own and God’s wonderful response:
“When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.”
In his darkest moments, the psalmist’s raging subsided. In the face of his merciful, compassionate Savior, he responded with peacefulness, trust, and then fervent love.
As we walk in God’s mercy for us as parents, we are filled and empowered to pass this wonderful love on to our children (who at any moment can act like little “brute beasts” as well!). How the peace and love of Christ would be strengthened in our homes if parents and kids were more aware of this wonderful truth of God’s ever-present mercy and love! How many times in the throes of parenting little kids had I acted like a raging “brute beast?” Plenty! And where was God? Not distant, disappointed, and disapproving; but present, comforting, guiding, and confident in His plans for me.
Know your strengths.
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