We step over gooey gum in the parking lot. Oldest carries the sack lunch and everyone but Little Bit herds to my side of the van to get in.
I call for her to come join us. I buckle youngest into his seat and Little Bit still hasn’t shown up.
“Little Bit,” I call, “Come around to this side and I’ll help you get in.”
I’m afraid she’ll wander into the parking space adjacent us so I go to check on her and there she is, standing at the back of the car, eyes hard, arms tight. For reasons only known to her, she is threatened by my instruction to come to the other side and has decided to resist.
The sight of her standing there like that in full blown rebellion makes my blood boil just about instantaneously. Here we are trying to make a fun family outing and she wants to pull a rebel stunt in the middle of the parking lot over something absolutely inconsequential.
I want to reprimand her. I want to slather her in harsh words. I want to exercise my parental “rights,” and re-iterate my expectations. I want her to know it is unacceptable to ignore instruction and impolite to hold everyone up with her silly games.
I want her to pay for the interruption in our plans.
Except there is something else at work in me. Something that reminds me this way doesn’t work. Something that asks, “Is this really what you want?”
The flesh in me cries out for relief. Yes, it is what I want. I want to lash out and exact payment, all in the bounds and guise of correction of course.
I know this voice well. How often it tells me that I need to teach my children a lesson; that a few well placed, hard words will bend them to my liking and will prevent future mishaps; that in order to get the appropriate response I want, I must listen to my emotions, lay down the law. I surely must address this and nip it in the bud. If not, my child will run wild and I’ll never be able to “control” him or her again. I simply can’t afford anything other than strongarmed parenting.
Except the voice has been proven a liar.
I’ve been down a parenting road or two that I don’t ever care to visit again.
This is one of them.
But how to find the way out? Because it is a dark road, not well marked, and finding your way back isn’t easy.
And just because I’ve learned that Shepherd’s staff trumps Egypt’s whip doesn’t mean I always know what the staff looks like…how it plays out from situation to situation. It can all be so frustratingly ambiguous. What exactly am I supposed to do?
The refrain echos from the chambers of my heart: “Live Loved,” it says once again.
“Be rooted and grounded in love, so that you may be filled up with the fullness of Christ. Be imitators of God, as dearly beloved children. That is, walk in love, just as Christ also loved you. Lay aside the old self and put on the new self.” Ephesians 3:17-19; 4:20-24; 5:1-2
Living loved is what enables one to give love. I can never muster up enough forgiveness, enough grace, enough kind words for parenting my children…unless I live in the love God has for me.
I can never deal well with life’s interruptions and little slights and rejections and hurts…never can I live humble and meek in a dog eat dog world… unless I live in the love God has for me.
But when I live loved, I can afford forgiveness. Generosity. Gracious Speech. Kind words overflowing.
I can afford to take a beating.
I can afford to suffer a wrong.
I can afford costly inconveniences and painful slights.
I can afford to lay down my life, quarter by quarter.
In fact, living loved is the only way I will ever be able to afford to give my kids the things that really matter.
I’ve tried holding it together myself, being a good mom, being morally and spiritually impeccable. And I’ve flat out failed so many times that I’ve come to the realization that I’ll never be my own Savior. It is not in trying harder and being more spiritual that I have a hope to be a better mom. No, only in receiving the Love He has for me do I have a hope of giving grace, pouring kindness, taking risks, letting go, bearing it all.
Isn’t this why both Colossians and Ephesians couch the “put off the old/ put on the new” passages with instruction to live as beloved of God?
It’s the only way to afford love: live loved.
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:12,16)
I stretch out my hand and take Little Bit’s. “Come on, Little Bit,” I tell her. “We are going to have a picnic and I need you to be my big helper. Can you do that?”
I lead her around from behind the van to the side door.
The flesh and the law hates to let go of the inner tirade it wants to spew out. But I see little lips tugging into a smile and I know I can afford oh, so much more. How well I’m loved!
“Silly ol’ girl!” I tell her and reach down to tickle her belly.
She laughs and I’ve just lived and given.
And deep within, I can almost feel Love being perfected.
Reposted from archives as I’m reminded to be rooted and grounded in love…