Wednesday, September 4, 2013

For Days When You Wonder if You'll Ever Change

Sometimes, the hardest days are the best reminders of His grace.

I sat on the couch, coffee in hand, my Bible open to Colossians.  My sweet ones were upstairs -- one asleep, the other playing busily in her room -- when I read these words from Paul:

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another...and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful."
Colossians 3: 12-15 (ESV)

My heart was pierced and emotions stirred. How often have my own children been the victims of my impatience, my harsh words, my pride and selfishness!

I prayed with earnestness and resolve: I needed to change.  I needed to grow.  I needed to put off the earthly desires and put on this selfless love that Jesus displayed!  I opened my eyes refreshed and ready to work hard.

Within seconds, my opportunity came.  I heard the upstairs bedroom door slam, with shouts by the little girl needing to go potty.  Her brother, awoken by the racket, began screaming.

Patience.  Kindness.  Humility. I breathed in and out, and ascended the stairs to care for them both with a smile on my face and gentleness on my lips.

Victory!  I had succeeded! 

But somewhere in between my self-dependence and self-righteousness, the course of the day began to shift.

Very quickly, my attempts at kindness, gentleness, and humility, dissolved into annoyance, anger, and harsh words.  I spent most of the day longing for bedtime to come quickly and wishing desperately for a break.  I wallowed in despair and complained of my lot.  I cried over nothing and everything -- my day, which started with such godly intent, was spiraling beyond my control.  Every passing hour was a closer look into the mirror of my heart and the striking realization that most days, I am the exact opposite of the person described in Colossians.  I felt weak, defeated, helpless.

I finally put on a movie for them as I surveyed my messy kitchen and began to weep.  My house was a mess.  My children were a mess.  My heart was a mess.  And I couldn't seem to get any of it back in order.

I continued to weep as I bent over the kitchen sink, scrubbing off the food particles from the dinner dishes.  How I wished the cleaning of my heart was as simple!  I felt a small tug on my shirt, and looked down to see my daughter peering up at me.

"Are you sad, mommy?"

I knelt down and my eyes met hers, and she continued.

"Sometime you are sad when I throw up my food, but I have my food in my belly now.  Can you please be happy instead?"

I wrapped her in my arms and continued to cry for the little girl who thought my tears were all because of her weakness.  The truth was, they were because of MY weakness -- my inability to love my children without having myself at the center of it all.

I pulled back and looked into her eyes.  "Mommy isn't crying because you threw up, sweetie.  Mommy is sad because I am struggling.  I want to love you like Jesus does, and I don't like it when I get angry and impatient."

She studied my tears, then began patting my shoulder.

"It's okay mommy.  Jesus is helping you to be kind."

My tears began to flow even faster.  I pulled her close again and whispered my thanks to her. My little one spoke truth.  It IS ok.  Jesus IS helping me.  I had become so focused on my own ability to change myself that I had forgotten the promises of God:

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." 
Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

Today, I didn't need a day that went smoothly, where I loved my children perfectly, with no tears, and no mishaps, and no messes, and all smiles.

Today, I needed a reminder of His grace.  I needed the reminder that I am weak, I am unable, but HE is faithful, and He will accomplish His will in me.

Jesus is helping me.

And maybe knowing that -- believing that -- makes it a sweet day after all. 

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