The Thing Our Children Really Need
There I stood at the kitchen sink, scrubbing dishes as quickly as I could. Behind me the children were carrying out my instructions: “You, bring me the dishes from the table. You, sweep the floor. You, put this dirty towel in the laundry room…and shut the door!”
I was in no mood for nonsense. We needed to work quickly and I was doing my best to speak in my “I really mean this” voice without actually sounding mean or grouchy.
I don't remember what happened. Someone swung the broom handle around a little too enthusiastically and bumped her, or someone grabbed the dish off the table that she wanted to carry over to the sink, or she got overwhelmed that the job was too hard. It could have been any of them…and honestly this basic scenario has played out many, many times in our household. But whatever it was, it made her upset. Very loudly upset. Yes, a certain 5-year-old in our family tends to act like, well…like she's 5. (Imagine that!)
Taking the time and effort to gently help her think rationally through the situation was not on my agenda at the moment. I really just wanted to tell her to get over it and move on with her life – in more 5-year-old terms, though. Something like, “That's enough. You're fine. Get back to work.”
But before the words could escape my lips, the Holy Spirit of God spoke to me. (Yes, He speaks to me right there at my kitchen sink!) It wasn't in an audible voice, of course, but as swiftly as a whipping blast of wind yet as gently as a whispering breeze, He brought to remembrance a portion of His eternal Word, which is alive, powerful, and applicable to even the smallest aspects of my life.
…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness…
Oh, Lord. To be a spirit-filled mama, I must display gentleness to my children.
Even when I need –no, when I want – this kitchen cleaned up in a hurry. My little girl doesn't need me to be unkind and unsympathetic. She needs me to be gentle. Because that's how Jesus wants me to treat her.
I dried my soapy hands and knelt down beside her. I looked deeply into her eyes, gave her shoulders a soft squeeze and said simply. “I'm sorry.” Immediately her crying stopped. She seemed almost incredulous that her no-nonsense mama had just told her she was sorry she got bumped with the broom.
She quickly recovered from her unfortunate incident and was ready to get back to work. I realized then and there that I can be no-nonsense with my children and still be a gentle mama.
I must be a gentle mama.
If I'm not a gentle mama, I am displaying a lack of spirit-control.
Since that day, I've tried to be aware of times when I must make a choice between being gruff and grumpy or being kind and gentle.
And I've found that under the control of the Holy Spirit, I can respond to the 47th call of “I'm dooone!” from the bathroom with a smile and a pleasant demeanor instead of an irritated, “Okay! I'm coming!”
I've found that I can respond to spilled milk with “It's okay. Let's clean it up together!” instead of “Seriously?! Why did you set your cup so close to the edge of the table?”
I've found that I can respond to a child's disobedience with an awareness of my own flawed nature and an understanding of the amazing grace and forgiveness God has given me. And I can show forth an attitude of gentleness instead of exhibiting frustration at the child's failure.
Gentleness doesn't mean I excuse my children's misbehavior, nor does it change the expectations I have for them.
But gentleness shows them God's goodness. It shows them that God loves them for who they are, not for what they do.
How can I help my children be attracted to the God who loves them so much? By allowing them to see his gentleness and kindness reflected in me.
(Romans 2:4) The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance – not the firm, unrelenting, perfection-expecting hand of God.
(Joel 2:13) …turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness — not unforgiving and impatient.
There are plenty of times I feel justified in not being so gentle.
You know, like the time I find that a child has not cleaned the toilet seat after they made a mess and then I sit in it. Or that other time when I walk into the bathroom barefoot and step in something wet next to the toilet. Or that other time when someone sits on my lap…and gets my clothes wet. (Yes, I didn't realize before motherhood that I would come in contact with bodily fluids multiple times a day. I thought that would be over once the kids were potty trained, but I think it happens more often now!)
There's just something about those things happening to me that ever so slightly irritates me. (Written with a sickly smile.)
But walking in the Spirit allows me to do things that do not come natural to my flesh.
Instead of huffing and puffing that I just stepped in pee, I have the power to gently remind a child to clean up after himself in the bathroom (or to try to aim a little better in the first place!)
Instead of letting my child know how I feel about the fact that we are running late because he irresponsibly misplaced a shoe, I have the power to extend grace, remember that he's a child, and simply help him look for the shoe.
Do you know what causes me not to be gentle?
Looking out for number one.
Think about it:
- I get snappy because things aren't going according to my plan
- I speak roughly because pee is gross and I don't like it.
- I get irritated because I am being inconvenienced.
Let me fill you in on a little something.
Motherhood is not convenient.
But that doesn't change what the Bible says:
Philippians 2:3-4 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Mothers, I urge you to walk in the spirit and not according to the desires of your own flesh. Through the power of the Spirit, we can be like Christ. We can set aside the thoughts of how we want things to go and turn our focus instead to the needs of others.
And that thing our children need? It's gentleness, mamas.