Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Warning Sign

I looked in my rearview mirror, and much to my dismay, saw the red and blue siren flashing behind me.

Ugh.  I put on my flashers, and fumbled for my wallet and car registration, which I presented to the officer when he arrived at my window.

"You turned right when there was very clearly a 'no turn on red' sign posted," he alerted me.

I did??  There was?

"I'm sorry.  I must have completely missed it."

"You couldn't have missed it."  He replied bluntly.  "It's huge."

Well, somehow, I did.  This haphazard mother missed the large, looming, obvious "no turn on red" sign that she was clearly supposed to see.  How did that happen?

After a sharp reprimand and a hefty fine to pay, the officer sent me on my way.  Then, I promptly made a U-turn and drove the 1/2 mile back to the crime-scene intersection.  I had to see this for myself.

He was right.  There is was.  It was huge.  And I missed it.

How did I get so distracted, so intent on my destination, that I failed to notice the giant warning sign hanging above the traffic light?

A few days ago, something similar happened.   I read the following "warning sign" in James:

  Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:20 (NIV)

I've read this countless times before.  I've been down this road.  I've turned this corner.  Did I really miss the sign?  The "anger-will-not-actually-give-you-what-you-really-long-for" warning that James gives?

We want and we don't get.  So we react.  Call it annoyance, frustration, agitation, weariness-gone-haywire, whatever you want...James calls it anger.  And he is says that it does NOT produce the righteousness that God desires.

Because anger is a funny thing.  It actually DOES get us where we think we want to go.  And it gets us there faster.  People listen up.  They pay attention.  Things get done.  A quick temper, a word-spoken-too-harshly, an unloving rebuke, they actually produce the quick results that we think will satisfy us.  And so I use it.  I use anger to secure an outcome, get what I want, arrive at my destination faster.

That destination may be nap time, the completion of mealtime, a quiet home, a clean home, a full night's sleep, a successful shopping trip.  And often, "whatever it takes" to get there includes an angry outburst.

But the warning in James is very clear.  Anger doesn't work.  

If I long for my children to be righteous, anger is not the vehicle to take them there.
If I long to pursue righteousness myself, anger will thwart my desires.  

It may make your children compliant, and it may produce results for the short term, but it is not the path to righteous living. Not for you.  Not for them.  Please know this:  when you find yourself giving into anger, you inevitably forfeit the very change you long to see in your children.  In the end, disregarding the "warning sign" leaves us with hefty fines to pay -- often at our children's expense.

The gospel provides a better way:

God is patient with me, so I can be patient with my children.
God has forgiven me much, so I can forgive my children much.
God does not treat me as my sins deserve, so I can humbly extend grace.
God continues the good work He began in me, so I can walk alongside of my "slow-learning" children.

Don't miss the warning sign.  Where anger produces thorns and walls, love can mold softened hearts and produce lasting change.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Being Big and Strong

It was just another normal breakfast in the Royes home.  I sat by the side of Joanna's highchair, instructing her to take bites of food, followed by sips of her milk.  After a bite-too-big and a cough-too-loud, the breakfast in her belly came back out onto her tray.

As I wiped down the highchair and my child, I tried explaining to her the importance of not throwing up.  The conversation went something like this:

Mommy:  Sweetheart, it's important to keep the food in your belly.  Do you understand?
Joanna: Yes, Mommy.  Understand.
Mommy:  Can you please try not to cough?  When you cough, the food doesn't stay in your belly!
Joanna:  Yes, Mommy. No coughing.
Mommy:  And if the food doesn't stay in your belly, then you can't grow big and strong!  Don't you want to grow big and strong?
Joanna:  NO.

I stopped what I was doing to look at her, puzzled.  This daily-repeated conversation had taken an unexpected turn.  She repeated her new battle cry several times, each time with increasing volume and resolve.

Joanna:  NO, Mommy!  No big and strong!!

She proceeded to cry, asking to be all done breakfast, despite my sad attempts to convince her that being big and strong was a GOOD thing-- much better than being 25 pounds for the rest of her life.

Rationalizing with a two-year-old hardly seems logical.

Half of my heart was saturated with annoyance.  This isn't fun for me either, kid.  But the other half of my heart was pricked at her sadness, at her desire to escape pain, rid herself of inconvenience, not realizing that she'd be sacrificing so much more in the future.  And as her mother, with her future in full view, I must insist that mommy knows best, and she needs to eat.  She'll thank me later.

I am my 2-year-old.  Many days, I don't care about growing big and strong, I just want the hard work, the sadness, the tiresome tasks, to end.  And the very things in this life that cause me pain, God has determined to mold and use so that I grow up "big and strong." He uses the things I would eagerly forgo if given the chance, to sanctify me, change me, sharpen me, humble me, grow me in grace, dependence, mercy, steadfastness.

Because He knows it's better.  And He knows that I will thank Him later.

Sweet mothers and fathers -- thank you for serving your children, doing for them what is best, even when they despise you for it.  You are growing them big and strong.  You are caring for their future when they'd prefer to ignore it.  You are imaging our faithful God who daily does this for us.