Theoretically, I am a fantastic mom. I know the way I want to mother, I know the things I want to teach my kids, I know what kind of people I want to raise them to be. I know how to discipline in most situations, I care about their eating habits and sleeping habits, and I think TV should be a last resort.
Of course, in reality, I’m just a regular old imperfect mom. I get lazy. I don’t follow through on the discipline I know how to do. I let TV be a first resort. I lose my temper. I am inconsistent.
But I am always working on bridging the “theoretical” and the “reality.” I want to constantly move toward being a better mom. Lately, as I am asking God what things he wants to work on in my character, he showed me three things. They just so happen to be three things I am working on with my oldest son, Jacob.
1. “Not immediate is disobedient”
My husband coined this phrase for our son. We don’t count to three, we don’t “give warnings” (I mean, theoretically of course). But our goal is that Jacob would obey immediately, and any arguing or ignoring or bargaining from him is the same as being disobedient, even if he plans on obeying after fixing one more Lego.
Yet this is not the way I always view God’s voice. I have found myself thinking, “If he really wants me to do that, he will tell me again.” Why would I think like that? Is that the way I want Jacob to view my authority?
Immediate obedience is sometimes about convenience. “Come here please” because I don’t want to stand at the fountain at the mall any longer. “Come for dinner” because I’m starving. But most of the time, I want Jacob to be obedient right away for his safety or for an opportunity. If I tell him to stop in a parking lot, it is because he is running out into an aisle where cars are driving. If he is not obedient immediately, his safety is at risk. Or if I tell him not to touch something, it is for his own good. Sometimes I ask him to come to me because I can see something he can’t and I want to show him. For instance, there is a train going by and I know he will want to see it, but he has to come to where I am. If he delays in his obedience, the train will pass without him seeing it.
It’s the same with me and God. Sometimes I think he just wants us to do what he says right away out of honor and love for him. But most times, I think it is for our safety or for an opportunity. If God wakes me up and tells me to pray for someone, I need to do it right away. Who knows what is happening in the spiritual realm that I am fighting against with my prayers? And if I go to sleep and think, “If he really wants me to pray he can wake me up again,” what am I forfeiting? If God tells me to go give a word to a random person at the park, and I falter in obedience, thinking he will tell me again if it’s important, what opportunity could I miss because in that time, the person leaves? What did God want to say to that person that I forfeited on their behalf because of fear?
2. “Don’t let the way other people act determine the way you act.”
This is a big one for all parents, isn’t it? We tell our kids, “It is never ok to hit/bite/say mean things, no matter what someone else does.” We expect them to have consistent character traits, regardless of the situation. Just because someone steals a toy from you does not give you the right to steal a toy from them. And just because someone else breaks the rules does not make it okay for you break them as well.
We expect this from our kids, but not from ourselves. So often we are vindictive, mean-spirited, sarcastic people, but we think it is justified because of what someone has done to us. Do you know what God has been showing me?
If I think I am a kind person, but I say biting things to my husband when he disappoints me, I am not a kind person.
If I think I am a gerenous person, but I withhold giving to others because I don’t like the lifestyle they are living, I am not a generous person.
If I think I am a forgiving person, but I don’t forgive until the other person has made it up to me, I am not a forgiving person.
The substance of my character is how I act in the face of injustice, cruelty, disappointment, frustration. I, in most situations, let other people determine how I act. I hate that. I want to be bigger than that. I want to be someone who, no matter what, is kind. Who, no matter what, is generous, and forgiving, and patient, and sweet.
3. “Share with your brother. If you are sharing, I promise you will always have enough.”
For Jacob, this is very specific to food. Jacob loves his little brother, and doesn’t withhold his snack out of spite or to be mean. He doesn’t want to share because he is afraid he won’t have enough if he gives some to Rohan. At the core, this is selfish, and in an older child I would address the idea of sacrificing for the good of others. But for a four year old, this is a very natural thing to worry about, and instead of telling him to sacrifice, I promise him that as long as he is sharing, he will always have enough. What Jacob sees is his small bowl of cheddar bunnies. What he doesn’t see is the Costco size box I have on the counter. I have more bunnies than he could ever, ever eat. And if I run out of those, I can buy more. I have, in essence, an infinite amount of cheddar bunnies. And I want to give them to Jacob! I have them for the sole reason of giving them to him! I just want him, in turn, to give some to Rohan.
Most of the time, all we see is our bank account. Or our debt. Or our bills. What we don’t see is God’s Costco size box of resources. We don’t give generously, not because we don’t want to bless others, but because we are afraid of not having enough for ourselves and our family. If you believe in the God I believe in, you must know this – money is not an issue for him. It’s just not. He is the author and sustainer of life itself; a human tool like money will never, ever stop him from his intended purposes. I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel – that if you give generously to God you will be rich. It’s not a formula. In fact, Jesus himself was homeless. He relied on the generosity of others to sustain his lifestyle. But I do think it is a principle. If you are a good steward of what God has given you, whether it is much or little, he will rejoice in giving you more because he knows you are responsible and generous with it. And God doesn’t always provide through dollar bills. It is often through the generosity of other Christians that God provides food, and clothing, and housing and education and networks…and also money. He no doubt also wants to use you to provide for someone else. Isn’t that the greatest idea? In the church family, if we are all always giving, then we will all always be receiving. May I be so bold as to make you a promise on behalf of Jesus? Give generously this month. Or tithe a simple 10% if you don’t already. And I will promise that all of your needs as a family will be met. It might be miraculous and it might be mundane. But if you give with a generous heart, not for the formula but out of the principle, God will bless you.
So those are the things I am working on right now, in Jacob and in myself. It’s kind of fun to have the same project as my son, so to speak. I can use what God is teaching me to guide how I am walking with Jacob through these situations. I think that the greatest lesson comes from me watching Jacob’s responses to my parenting. He is much better at it than I am. I’m trying to be as good of a parent as God is and as good of a child as Jacob is. And somehow, in the busyness and seemingly unexciting day to day life of mine, God is giving me opportunities to practice both.