Last night I went toe to toe with my strong-willed child. (To protect this child, at least in some measure, I’m going to use cumbersome language, rather than identify which child by saying him or her. Please bear with me).
We’ve had knock-down drag-outs in the past. I am so tired of those episodes, trying to win by being bigger and stronger. I might win in the short run, but I can’t imagine that that tactic helps my child win in the long run. Knowing that it blesses my child to hear me apologize is little comfort to the shame and aging frustration I have with my temper. So last night was different, and it surprised my child.
Another one of my children got hurt pretty badly in an accident caused by my strong-willed child’s poor judgment. However, the strong-willed child reacted in such a strident way that made it all about him/her, threatening to run away and even taking off down the block.
I would have let the child go in an effort to help him/her see the foolishness of this decision. But we’ve had some break-ins in our neighborhood lately. The slight risk of a dangerous end seemed to greatly outweigh the (also slight) possibility of a parenting victory. Maybe in a couple of years.
But rather than react in anger, I prayed. Right there in the middle of the street. “Lord, I want to leave this child out here. Or give him/her the spanking of his/her life. Or both. What would you have me do?” As I prayed, my child, thinking I was just standing there waiting for obedience, called out, “You can stay there as long as you want; I’m not coming home!” Come Lord Jesus.
The child eventually came in and ate dinner; we had a long talk, and I stayed calm. It was an exhausting calm that took every ounce of prayer and strength I had in me. There was no spanking or yelling. The child tried to make me angry and to change the subject with such tactics as turning away, drawing on the furniture, and blaming the reactions on completely unrelated subjects.
It was artistry, but I wasn’t taking the bait. But it was exhausting. Again. Each episode reminded me of the millions of others. I caught myself about to snap at my other children later in the evening because my emotions were threadbare by that point. I missed my run this morning because I was just too damn tired.
This morning I opened up the book of Hebrews and read:
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin [my child’s and my own] you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? [Yes, I have.]
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons [me?] . . . he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble . . . (Heb. 12:3-15)
Sigh. If God has given me a difficult child because he loves me and because he intends to train me in his holiness, then praise his name. If God has given my child a difficult dad because he loves my child and because he intends to train this child in his holiness, then praise his name.
For every one look at my own sin, my own struggles, my own despair, let me take ten looks at the one who endured my own strong will yet still loved me enough to die for my sins to bring me to himself.
Thank you, Lord; thank you for loving me enough to give me a life that forces me to rely on you and your strength. Give me strength for today.