Sometimes things just happen. Situations escalate. Children get overly rowdy while you are nursing, or changing a diaper, or elbow deep in raw chicken. You are making dinner, but they want snacks. The phone is ringing, there has been a potty incident, and the Jehovah Witnesses are at your doorbell. Someone breaks their necklace of beads, and the crawling baby has never been more thrilled to try to choke. It is usually at a time like this that one of your children starts standing out from the crowd, somehow provoking you to snap at them. It might be something as little as trying to stuff a toy into your back pocket. This is a situation that can easily get dramatically worse, due to Mom throwing in the attitude towel, or you can control yourself, blow it out, maybe laugh, and get a grip on it. The difference between these two responses is what I would call “getting the grace”.
There are a few common assumptions that I think get in the way of us dealing well with moments like these. A lot of the time these things just creep into our mentality, and we never even look at them straight on. But they can be very destructive – leading us blind into explosive situations.
I feel like I need to squeak in a side-comment here. I remember when we just had Lina. Two adults, one infant. When I would see someone losing their cool with their child, I would wonder what on earth would cause that. How can you lose your temper with a little kid? Come on, people! Get a grip! So if you are reading this and wondering why anyone would be wound up by a kid sticking something in your back pocket, just wait. Give yourself some time and some more children and check back in!
First, your personality is no snowflake. The fact that you have certain likes and dislikes and predispositions does not entitle you to any kind of special treatment. I like a clean and ordered house. That is my personality. The fact that I have five little children and seldom have a clean and ordered house is not an excuse for me to lose the bubble. Rather, it is an opportunity for me to grow. This is an area that God has seen fit to try me. I need to grow, and I don’t mean away from loving order and cleanliness, but towards loving people more than that. Often times when we say that we really love, or need _____ , it is just a more subtle way of saying that we love or need ourselves.
When I may be tempted to be frustrated about half of a PB & J smashed around one of the table legs, or wheat thins stuffed down the heat vent, this is a moment that I need to “get the grace.”
By that I really mean, to see myself and the situation as God sees me. So the wheat thins were a bit of a let down. Try to see yourself in the story, and try to be a character that you would like. Even as you discipline the child responsible for the wheat thin stuffing, keep a good eye on who you are being. In situations like this, getting the grace might mean thanking God for the silly fingers that did this while you clean it up. Laughing at the story. Disciplining for the bad behavior while maintaining friendship with the children who did it. Enjoying the funny bits in your day because you have a perspective to see them.
Second, grace is always available and never runs out. Throughout your day you may have several opportunities to lose the grip. You don’t need to. You may pass up that opportunity. Having the feeling is not the indisputable sign that this must happen. Losing the bubble is a conscious decision that you can avoid making. It takes “getting the grace” to pass it by. I think we all know what it is like to have a great big emotional door in front of us. You may charge on through, or turn and pass it by. When you feel the emotional surge coming at you (a bit like sitting at the top of a slide), get the grace. Hold your tongue, and blow it out. Pray that God will give you self control. Walk away from it. It is much harder to get off a slide while screaming around the second corner half way down with your hair blowing in the wind. Also harder for your husband to get you off the slide. Just don’t go down it. Much better for everyone! Ask your husband for a hand as you back out of the chute.
Third, getting things right can be done as quickly as getting them wrong. My Dad always taught us that love is an action, not an emotion. You do not have to wait until you feel like doing the right thing to do the right thing. I think the majority of the times that I apologize to my children, confessing my sin both to them and to God, I don’t feel like it yet. Do not let things run out of control and burn off, waiting until you feel really bad and want to get it right. Get it right as soon as you get it wrong. Your emotions will follow. You don’t need to spend a certain amount of time in the midst of the fail. Get back out of it as soon as you get in.
This is such an important principle for mothers, because the challenges that we face are usually embedded in situations that you cannot walk away from. When the spirit in your house is revved up to a fever pitch, and things are really going crazy, and you feel a meltdown coming on, obey. Do not “let it rip” until you have a quiet moment (late at night after the kids are all asleep) to repent and feel bad about it. Obedience is the lifeline that God gives you. Do not wait to grab onto it. Think about how you feel when you see your kids teetering on the brink of a meltdown. You see what they are worried about, you see how little it is, and you see how they are not listening to what you say. They are choosing the far more difficult road by choosing to wail, fuss, cry, and be disciplined over listening and sitting in the chair you picked out for them. So don’t do that to God. When you start flipping out about something, listen to Him. Do what He is telling you to do, and everything will become clear. Grab onto His grace and obey, and you will find that the grace is overwhelmingly abundant.