“Patience is a grace as difficult as it is necessary, and as hard to come by as it is precious when it is gained.”
If there is any area of our lives that illuminates this quote by Charles Spurgeon, it’s parenting. We want to be, no, we desperately long to be patient and self-controlled, but how often does our anger win?
When it comes to framing this very real (and often daily) struggle we face, there are few passages in Scripture that resonate with me more than Romans 7: 18- 25 (MSG). I think it’s safe to say the Apostle Paul penned the cry of many mother’s hearts when he wrote,
“I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?”
(Romans 7: 18-24 MSG)
Maybe you too can resonate with Paul’s angst? Maybe you too have tried everything to be more patient and to get less angry, and nothing helps.
Well, we’d all be in big trouble if this was the end of the story.
But here is the Good News! Listen to the answer with which Paul concludes:
“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
(Romans 7:25 MSG)
What hope does this give us for our parenting?
Let's start with this. When we feel the anger boiling, we have two choices. We can react or we can respond. We know the difference. We tend to react to the disobedience of our kids when we forget how prone our own hearts are to wander and disobey our Heavenly Father. But remembering our own sin and our own desperate need for a Savior empowers us to respond. Respond with grace. A reaction usually entails us coming down on our kids. A response usually entails us coming alongside them. And which one we choose usually depends on whose power we're relying.
In those hard moments of mothering when nobody is listening and everybody is arguing and we can’t understand for the life of us why nobody wants to do the right thing and we just know we’re about to completely lose it, what we need most is Jesus.
We, like Paul, need Jesus in us to live through us.
I know this all too well in my own life. I can plan and plot and try to manipulate my emotions all I want. But in the heat of the moment — in the heat of the very real war that is raging for my soul — the only thing that can empower me to be the firm but gentle mom I long to be for my kids is Jesus.
So if I'm on the verge of losing my cool, I take it to Jesus. Out loud.
My prayer may sound something like, “Lord, I need you and I need you now. This is an emergency. I want to be the patient parent to my kids that you are to me. I feel my anger about to win and I desperately need your patience and your power. Jesus help me remember my own need for grace and be a reflection of your heart because on my own, I don’t have what it takes.”
Taking it to Jesus keeps me from taking it out on my kids.
Rest assured, this is by no means something I’ve mastered but I can promise you this. One day at a time I am coming to discover just how right Tim Keller was when he said, “Self-control is not willpower, it’s gospel power.”
And finally, I want to encourage you with this.
Letting our kids see us take our weaknesses and our struggles and our daily battle with sin to Jesus is so powerful. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give them. We need to let our kids see us running to and relying on Jesus to be for us what we can’t be on our own! And then maybe, just maybe, they’ll see how they can do the same.
All is grace,