This is the most frequently uttered (screamed? shouted?) word in my house.
Our toddler recently entered that stage of toddler-hood that is especially trying. Up until last month, she would have good days and bad days, and good moments and bad moments, but overall we weren’t really surprised by her behavior. But one morning a few weeks ago, it was as if a different person woke up in her bed. Everything is a fight now. “Time out” has been a frequent occurrence – and what’s worse, I think she actually likes it. Sometimes she’ll hit her sister just to get into “time out.” And then she sits and laughs at me.
I know some of this is a reaction to changes happening in our household (potty training and the introduction to the big girl bed, for instance), but nothing I do seems to help. I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, and eventually she’ll move on from this behavior to something else (most likely equally frustrating). I pray and pray and pray and despite my best efforts I’ve still lost my temper, yelled, and slammed a door or two.
A week or so ago, I was reading in the book of Luke, and came to the passage where Jesus welcomes children who are brought to him:
Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17
I’ve been reflecting on that verse, “and do not hinder them,” in particular, since then. And today, I was listening to a sermon podcast (it was really good – give it a listen!) centered on Mark 19:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 19:42
Can I be honest for a minute? I am so discouraged. I’m so discouraged thinking about how I’ve behaved, particularly when my oldest screams or tries to slam a door – because she learned that from me. I taught her how to act out in anger. I taught her that sin. I have already hindered my kids. It would be better for me if a millstone were hung around my neck.
And, at the same time I feel discouraged, I have found encouragement. Despite what I deserve, God has already paid the debt for my transgressions. I know that I cannot do good on my own power. I know that if God has set my children aside for his own possession that nothing I do will prevent them from going to Him.
But I still don’t want to be the reason my kids have doubts, or the reason why my kids know how to do bad things. And I know that all trials and tribulations (however large or small) sanctify us.
Maybe God is sanctifying me by teaching me to trust his ability to redeem my girls. Maybe, despite my head knowledge, there are places in my heart that I’m keeping away from God. Places where I’m secretly harboring the expectation that I can, by my own power, save my children.
I don’t want to be the reason my kids have doubts, or the reason why my kids know how to do bad things. So I go back to the slog. I keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep reading the Bible. Keep praying. Keep trusting. Keep trusting. Keep trusting.