Eighteen months into life, and my son has now learned to say the word, “puppy,” to drink from a straw, to drag his dog around by the leash and to respond, “Jesus!” when asked “Who died for the whole world?”
And yet, I’m positive I’m the one who has done the most learning the past year and a half.
I thought marriage taught me a lot about biblical truths. But parenthood has moved me into at least undergrad level classes.
From the pilot seat of my mom-mobile, I frequently find myself chiding my small son for this or that. I don’t even get a whole sentence of correction out of my mouth, though, before I take a hard gulp and wince a little, seeing my own sinfulness come into clear and spotlighted view.
“Just because you didn’t get your way, does not mean it’s okay to throw a fit.” Gulp.
“You need to obey right away and with a happy heart.” Gulp.
“You need to choose to have a good attitude.” Gulp.
I could go on and on. Perhaps the only bad behavior my son exhibits that I don’t is biting. At 29, I do not have a biting problem.
But patience issues? Yep. Tendencies toward grumbling? Unfortunately, yes. Attitude adjustments? Need them all the time.
Here is just a glimpse of the lessons the Lord has assigned me this year:
Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil. 4:4) - The Lord has reminded me that this instruction is a command. I often tell my son, “This is not a choice. I am not asking you, I am telling you….” The same goes for this directive. The Lord is telling me, not asking me, to rejoice always. No matter how bad the day has been — how hungry I am, how tired I feel, how much discouraging news I’ve received — I am commanded to make a choice to actively rejoice. There is always something worthy of rejoicing, and I’ve found a great place to start is to literally start counting blessings.
Do everything without complaining or grumbling. (Phil. 2:14) - Wise parenting mentors taught me that obedience without a “happy heart,” is not obedience at all. Certainly, I’ve been passing along this admonition to my son, but having it on the top of my mind makes me painfully aware each time I’ve missed the mark in this area.
Have the same attitude as Jesus Christ… (Phil. 2:5) - Well, this is a tall order. But this is the bar that Scripture has set for us. As sin-infected people, we won’t always live up to this, but this standard is where we point and aim. I must actively set my attitude, and when I do, it needs to be others-focused and selfless. For my son, this sometimes looks like waiting quietly in his high chair while his dad tells me a story at the dinner table. For me, this sometimes looks like pausing a story I’m telling my husband so that he can take an important phone call. If only getting a handle on selfishness were as easy as eliminating biting. If only.
In total seriousness, though, this mother’s day, I am grateful that God uses parenthood to prune and mold me. What humbling and deeply rewarding work it is. Deuteronomy 6 gives clear instructions to parents to teach and train their children. Who could have known that God would use that very system to concurrently train the parents?
How infinite is the wisdom of our God, and how incredibly high and masterful are His ways compared to our own!
This article first appeared in Baptist Press, May 11, 2018.