Just five days earlier I taught on the topic of self-control in my Wednesday night MOMs class. Although I was teaching it to myself as much as anyone, the irony wasn’t lost on me. I left that meeting with a plan to control my temper with my children. This plan included all the advised methods – deep breaths, withdrawal from the situation, old-fashioned self-control, and lots of prayer.
None of those methods came to the forefront of my brain that evening at dinner when, mid-bite, I looked at the clock. It read 5:42 and in order to arrive at my nephew’s t-ball game on time, we would have to leave in exactly 3 minutes. I wasn’t finished with my chicken wings, Alyssa had popsicle craft sticks strewn all over the floor, and neither child had shoes on. In the back of my mind, the thought came clearly, “Nothing good is going to come from this if you don’t reassess the situation NOW.” But did I? Nope.
I walked into the bathroom to find that my son hadn’t cleaned up the mess that only boys seem to make in the bathroom. I thrust a dry rag in his hand and told him to wet it and clean up his mess because it’s his mess after all. (And by golly I’m going to squeeze in a lesson on responsibility as we’re rushing out the door.) I may or may not have fumed about having JUST cleaned that toilet AND floor just hours earlier. (Can you tell my blood temp is rising again just by writing this?)
Oh it gets better. After I got dressed, I walked out of my bedroom to find not only the bathroom floor soaked but half of the entry way as well with a wet rag dripping from Drew’s hands. At that point I lost it. No curse words came out of my mouth but I wonder if what did come out of my mouth wasn’t as harmful. He got a full dose of guilt for his clear lack of consideration for my slavery with mop and bucket that morning. In the back of my mind I knew cleaning up that mess in a way that would satisfy my wrath was an unfair request to place on a 7-year-old boy. But I had lost most self-control and both of my children saw it.
Sixteen minutes later, all three of us settled into the car, and I turned back to Drew and apologized to him. I told him that when I lost self-control, I sinned and there was no excuse. I asked him to forgive me. Then I turned to Alyssa and asked her to forgive me for my anger as well.
Although all was forgiven, I couldn’t help but reflect on the episode. Because of God’s grace, forgiveness is always available, even from the best forgivers in the world – children – but consequences still remain. I heard it in the way Drew talked to Alyssa later with the same sharpness in his voice as I had. I heard it in the way Alyssa started bossing Drew.
This is not okay.
How can I teach kindness, forbearance, and grace if I am not modeling it?
Reflecting over the events, my mind couldn’t help but go back to that moment when I glanced at the clock. That was my moment of decision. I had decided that I would get the kids ready as fast as possible by any means possible. Not being late was the end goal.
But when am I going to understand that not sinning against my Father and against my children should be the end goal? When did I start letting the knowledge of available grace water down the real consequences of sin? Jesus died to take the eternal punishment of my sin on himself, yes, but Scripture also tells us we reap what we sow. I’ve seen first-hand how my children are reaping what I’ve sown.
If we’ve been to Vacation Bible School at any point in our lives, we probably can quote the end of the Pledge to the Bible:
…and hide his word in my heart that I might not sin against God.
Taken from Psalm 119:11, I can quote this verse easily but living it is a different story. Oh, I hide God’s word in my heart. But here’s what my life looks like:
and hide his word in my heart that I will have an answer to those who question faith.
and hide his word in my heart so I will know how to defend what I believe.
and hide his word in my heart so I can have direction in my daily decisions.
and hide his word in my heart so I’ll know how to instruct my children.
When I get serious about hiding God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against God, I believe I’ll see progress. My children will see direction, not demands. They’ll see grace, not wrath.
And they’ll see placing self-controlled spirit above being on time for a t-ball game.
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