Patient parenting is not for the faint of heart.
Some days it is easy to be your best self: the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful way that you love to be. Other days, however, it doesn’t come naturally, and you really have to dig in to find a way to be loving or kind or patient.
Parenting is much more of an endurance sport than a quick sprint.
It has such a variety of emotions all wrapped into one: the most ecstatic highs and the most heartbreaking lows. Each stage of our children’s life comes with so many joys and also unique challenges. The sweet spot comes when we partner with God to hear Him and can exhibit wisdom, beauty, and love in our moment to moment interactions.
We have a couple of tweens in our house now, and it definitely takes a different kind of perspective and patience than it did when they were toddlers and preschoolers. Emotional swings are definitely a thing. I was somewhat prepared for this eventuality, because I have been known to have a few emotional swings in my lifetime as well. Ahem.
Just this week I had some interesting interactions with Unnamed Child (identity hidden to protect the guilty). Unnamed Child was grumpy and moping around the house, negative in almost every interaction, didn’t want to be helpful or participate with any family activity… all very different from how this child usually acts. I tried to encourage, cheer up, and cajole into good humor to no avail. The boundaries stayed firm (You’re welcome to join us for snack after you have completed the first part of your schooling for the morning), and I kept my cool. I didn’t get angry or fall prey to antagonism.
After hours of bad behavior (and the child knew they were behaving badly), I called for the child to join me in my room. The child walked the other way and pretended not to hear me. I sweetly called for the child again, and patiently waited for them to comply. They arrived in my room with arms crossed and said “What?!”… and then saw in my outstretched hand I was giving them a piece of my most special chocolate (they all know that Mommy has a stash set aside for special occasions). They received the chocolate, started nibbling on it, eyes full of tears and the look of “I’m sorry”.
I reassured unnamed child that they are dearly loved and nothing was going to change that. Bad behavior cannot drive me away, and good behavior will not make me love them more. Helpful and pleasant behavior makes their days run more smoothly, but it doesn’t change how much I love them.
It made me realize that God is so much like the parent with outstretched hand full of chocolate. Sometimes we act bad, and we hide from Him thinking that we are just going to receive a lecture or some other kind of punishment; but he is really just calling us close so that He can give us something sweet in the midst of our distress, tell us how much He loves us, and give us comfort.
There is SO much beauty to be found in forgiveness. Big forgiveness. Small forgiveness. Unlimited forgiveness.
We all know how good it feels to be shown grace, love, and forgiveness. Let us remember that God is the grand initiator of those ideas. When our perspective of God is overflowing with His goodness, it makes it easier to receive that grace and forgiveness… and then show that same grace and forgiveness to the people around us: our spouse, our children, our extended family, our co-workers, strangers on the internet, the random people in line at Wal-mart. God loves extravagantly- He’s not afraid that if He loves too much that we will be “spoiled” or that we will continue to sin. He knows that Love covers a multitude of sin, and anyone who receives Love to the deepest core of who they are will always look up in tears with their eyes full of “I’m sorry”. Forgiveness is like that. And sometimes it is like a piece of chocolate.
Luke 15: 11-32 The Passion Translation
The Loving Father
Then Jesus said, “Once there was a father with two sons. The younger son came to his father and said, ‘Father, don’t you think it’s time to give me the share of your estate that belongs to me?’ So the father went ahead and distributed among the two sons their inheritance. Shortly afterward, the younger son packed up all his belongings and traveled off to see the world. He journeyed to a far-off land where he soon wasted all he was given in a binge of extravagant and reckless living.
With everything spent and nothing left, he grew hungry, for there was a severe famine in that land. So he begged a farmer in that country to hire him. The farmer hired him and sent him out to feed the pigs. The son was so famished, he was willing to even eat the slop given to the pigs, because no one would feed him a thing.
Humiliated, the son finally realized what he was doing and he thought, There are many workers at my father’s house who have all the food they want with plenty to spare. They lack nothing. Why am I here dying of hunger, feeding these pigs and eating their slop? I want to go back home to my father’s house, and I’ll say to him, ‘Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. I’ll never be worthy to be called your son. Please, Father, just treat me like one of your employees.’
So the young son set off for home. From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar, and great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. So the father raced out to meet him. He swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love.
“Then the son said, ‘Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. I could never deserve to be called your son. Just let me be–‘
The father interrupted and said, ‘Son, you’re home now!’
“Turning to his servants, the father said, ‘Quick, bring me the best robe, my very own robe, and I will place it on his shoulders. Bring the ring, the seal of sonship, and I will put it on his finger. And bring out the best shoes you can find for my son. Let’s prepare a great feast and celebrate. For this beloved son of mine was once dead, but now he’s alive again. Once he was lost, but now he is found!’ And everyone celebrated with overflowing joy.
“Now, the older son was out working in the field when his brother returned, and as he approached the house he heard the music of celebration and dancing. So he called over one of the servants and asked, ‘What’s going on?’
“The servant replied, ‘It’s your younger brother. He’s returned home and your father is throwing a party to celebrate his homecoming.’
“The older son became angry and refused to go in and celebrate. So his father came out and pleaded with him, ‘Come and enjoy the feast with us!’
“The son said, ‘Father, listen! How many years have I been working like a slave for you, performing every duty you’ve asked as a faithful son? And I’ve never once disobeyed you. But you’ve never thrown a party for me because of my faithfulness. Never once have you even given me a goat that I could feast on and celebrate with my friends like he’s doing now. But look at this son of yours! He comes back after wasting your wealth on prostitutes and reckless living, and here you are throwing a great feast to celebrate– for him!’
“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy. It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed, because this brother of yours was once dead and gone, but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost but now he is found!’ ”
Let us look to forgiveness and love this week.