“How does the library sound today, sweetheart?”
"Books...libeeeery!!" Joanna squealed as she jumped off the couch and ran toward the door.
There were few places Joanna enjoyed more than our local library, and after being cooped up inside for a few weeks with a new baby, both she and I needed a morning out.
Armed with the diaperbag, the kids, the stroller, and the long-overdue library books, we set off on our reading adventure. We had barely made it through the double doors, and Joanna was sprinting towards the back of the library -- the corner with overstuffed couches, the brightly colored carpet squares, and rows upon rows of board books. What a treat!
We hadn’t even passed the Juvenile Fiction section when it happened. Luke’s face started to scrunch. His nose wrinkled, and his eyes closed tight. Within a matter of seconds, what started off as a little uncomfortable whimper escalated to an all-out wail.
I could feel, whether real or imagined, the hot stares of other library-goers, whose quiet reading was quickly, and loudly, interrupted. I fumbled in my purse and retrieved a pacifier, and quickly attempted to shove it in the mouth of my now screaming child. Every second that passed felt like an eternity, and my anxiety level rose along with the volume of his cries.
Flush with embarrassment, I grabbed Joanna’s hand, and we headed for the door as quickly as her little legs could go. I could feel the tears starting to form and run down my face. Avoiding making eye contact with anyone, I exited as quickly as possible. After all, who cries because they have to leave the library?
“I’m sorry we can’t go to the library, Joanna,” I said through tears as we walked through the double doors. “But your little brother can’t seem to be quiet.”
As we drove away from the library, my tears of sadness turned into fits of anger.
He ruined it for her. For me. His tears were constantly preventing her enjoyment of even simple things. My enjoyment.
Grocery Store? Embarrassing.
Long car rides? Screams.
The mental list grew longer, and I added item after item of things I could no longer do because of a crying baby, and the more that I focused on how his tears were affecting not only me, but my other child, the angrier I became.
In the midst of my personal pity party, God brought to mind Galatians 5:13:
“Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
In my mind, Luke’s cries were an inconvenience. In Jesus’ eyes, they were a privilege. An opportunity to serve one another humbly in love. To willingly give up my “freedom” to enjoy the library and to bless my daughter, and instead, to sacrificially do what was best for the smallest and most needy member of our family.
Even more sobering than my sinful response, was what I was teaching my impressionable young daughter.
I was teaching Joanna to be a victim.
Luke was the “weakest vessel” in our family, and Joanna could sacrificially give up the library to love him when he’s having a fussy morning. But instead, I was training her to disdain those that interfere with her freedom.
God, help me to love, serve, give up my freedoms to serve the weakest members in my family! Help me to teach my children to willingly give up their rights, their desires, to meet the needs of those weaker than they. Because isn’t that the Gospel? Jesus Christ willingly gave up his freedom, His “right to enjoy the library,” His perfect and peaceful communion with His Father, in order to serve, to sacrifice, for the weak and helpless. For me.