Last Sunday I excelled at words. They poured forth from my mouth like a fountain. Unfortunately, they were not a fountain of refreshment, but rather a fountain of refuse.
I remember some time ago I read a parenting book that described nagging as using a lot of words to convey a point. Good gravy! I was an ole nag if there ever was one.
One of my children, who shall not be named, pushed, stamped and banged on every button I have. This child is relentless in her efforts to frustrate and anger me. I wonder sometimes if she just loves to watch me wind up into a whirlwind of weary wrath. (Can you tell I’ve been teaching figurative language lately?)
She makes sassy an art form…or a weapon…not sure which is a better description. I don’t understand why though. We were leaving church for goodness sake..shouldn’t we all be in a good place spiritually, emotionally, mentally…? She walked to the car with the swagger of a movie star, almost started battling with her sister as they climbed into the car, flounced into her seat with some sassy comment about someone, and proceeded to annoy every one of us in any way that she could. For the entire ride.
I, at that point, was in a lovely place spiritually, emotionally, mentally… and tried to offer her grace with some firm warnings to settle down. I believe she took that as a challenge to amp up. By the time we got to lunch with Grandma, she was in full bratty mode. All through lunch, I quietly encouraged her to be kind, be nice, be sweet, leave your sister alone, don’t make those faces. To no avail.
By the time we were leaving Grandma’s, I was ready to spew forth my frustrations in words. And spew I did.
I gave her “what-for” as my dad would say. I told her all the things she had and was doing wrong, told her that her behavior was appalling, embarrassing, didn’t show who she really was, was disrespectful, rude, unkind…etc.etc.etc.
And do you know what her response was? Sassy words! Smiles! MORE disobedience.
This dear child of my heart has been my spiciest child by far. My challenge. My bring-me-to-my-knees child. My twist-me-into-knots child. My drive-me-up-a-wall child. My “oh Father, what were you thinking?” child.
But she is also my dear little girl who brings me joy and laughter in ways no one else can. She blesses me with precious notes and beautiful pictures often. She has written “I love you” to me more than any other child…possibly more than all my other children combined. She is a sweetheart under all the sass.
That day, I lost complete sight of the sweetheart. All I could see was the sass.
After some room time, she came out to ask to play outside. I asked if she was ready to apologize for her behavior.
She said, “No.”
“Please go back to your room.”
“But I want to play and I really am sorry.”
We talked some more. Talked about what would be ways that I could help her make better choices. She said I could be nicer. I told her that doesn’t seem to work. She kind of agreed. She said I could give her time out. I said, “I did. And you are still not repentant.” She said, “You could just let me sit on the stairs instead of going to my room.” I said, “Then you’ll just be sassy on the stairs and I’ll get angry again.”
She knows she is pushing my buttons.
Why can’t I be the adult in this situation? Why can’t I maintain my calm? Why do I lose my mind and control of my tongue?
Proverbs 10:19 keeps popping into my head (ugh):
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The NIV version is even better for my situation:
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
Neither her sin nor mine will be diminished by my plethora of words.
The other verse that hides in the back of my mind all the time is Proverbs 15:1:
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
I can do soft for a bit…a bit…before my harsh words can no longer be contained. Unfortunately, it truly does make things so much worse. And I end up with an angry daughter in her room and an angry momma downstairs who also happens to be crushed by feeling like a failure.
In those moments, I often find myself sitting down crying out to God, “Lord, what were you thinking? Why did you think I could do this? I don’t like this life. I hate this life.”
God forgive me.
That day, I added to my grievances. “Lord, what were you thinking giving me 5 children and then taking away my husband? What good could possibly come from this? Obviously, I am not up to this task. Obviously, I’m failing. Look where we are today! On Sunday no less! Lord, I hate this.”
He is gracious to listen. I know he understands. I know he forgives me my rant. But my children sometimes overhear this conversation between God and me. You know how I know?
They say the same things sometimes. Last night one of my other children wanted to stay up a little bit later than she should. I said no and her response was, “I hate my life”.
You hate your life because you can’t watch a show for 15 more minutes!?!
It made me think about myself…my words to God.
“I hate my life.”
Do I really?
So why does it feel like I need to say those words to God? Why do I need to throw out such obvious exaggerations, such untruths about my life.
I might hate this situation. Hate the moment. Hate the conflict. But I most certainly don’t hate my life.
I love so much about my life. There is so much to love. And so many to love.
But in those moments when I feel like a frustrated, fearful, furious failure…yeah, those moments…oh how I hate things. I hate how I’m acting…how I’m not the mom I want to be…how in those times when I could choose to rise to the challenge, I instead feel like I helplessly fall into the fail pit.
Afterwards, I can think of so many better things to say and do and think…but in the heat of the moment, when my fury is fired up…I don’t think. I just speak…spew…pour forth words…I am faucet of frustration.
And I wish so much I could control my tongue. And that reminds me of James 3:3-11:
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilots want to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters this should not be. Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
Part of that can be discouraging…”but no human being can tame the tongue”…if I can’t make my mouth stop talking or nagging or grumping or fussing…what am I to do?
One of my NIV Study Bibles says, “It is better to fight a fire than go around setting new ones!” So, even though I will not perfectly control my tongue, it is worth the fight. And I do not fight it alone. The Holy Spirit is always with me to help me.
Why do I let my tongue reign supreme in all challenging situations? Why do I not take 10 seconds to think before I speak.? Honestly, I’d take 3 seconds of thinking before opening my mouth…that would probably help curb the tide of crazy that comes out of my face.
I think it is because I’m selfish. I want things to go smoothly…to be easier…would everyone just do what I say?! Would everyone just help!? Would everyone just settle down!? Would everyone just listen!?
Would I just settle down!?! Would I just listen?!
When I rant I am not kind, gentle, loving, and gracious…not at all. And usually I’m ranting about one of my children who has chosen not to be kind, gentle, loving, or gracious.
I’m showing them exactly what I don’t want them to do by doing it myself!!!! Good gravy! Have I learned nothing from all the parenting books I’ve read?
I don’t want to be the don’t do as I say or do parent.
I wonder how to change this dynamic in our family…in my relationship with my children.
The only thing I can think of…the only thing…is prayer.
Recently a friend shared that praying continually has made a huge difference in perspective, decision-making, and trust. I know that and I still don’t life that way!
You must be tired of me sharing my conviction to pray more and my realization that prayer is the answer to the dilemma and yet….here I am AGAIN!
And I wonder if God thinks to Himself, “Daughter, why won’t you just listen? Why won’t you just do as I say?” Thankfully, he isn’t me and always, ALWAYS, responds to my mess of emotions and words with love and grace.
Today, I am alone for a few hours. *sigh* And I can pray out loud without small ears listening to every word and asking questions I’m unprepared to answer.
I will lift up my children, spicy ones first, and myself to the Lord. I will ask that God gives us the ability to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). I will pray that all of us will do all things without grumbling and questioning and complaining (Philippians 2:14). And that I will model for my children Paul’s exhortation to think of only what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worth of praise. (Philippians 4:8).