I am not parenting from a position of perfection. I was reminded of this again today as I slammed the lid of a package of strawberries closed after repeatedly struggling to snap the plastic pieces together.
Anger. Frustration at a challenging circumstance. Unmet expectations leading to grumbling.
Sound familiar? I can excuse these kinds of reactions by explaining that I was in a hurry. Or that I was tired and had a headache. But how often have I corrected my two-year old, reminding him that responding in anger by stomping his feet or screaming or throwing himself on the ground is not acceptable? Too many times to count. So whenever I respond in anger to situations that are difficult and trying I am quickly jolted at my hypocrisy. And to be quite honest, it also happens more than I would like to try and count. And it’s often just as immature as how my young children respond.
Admitting this is humbling.
It is also freeing.
I am reminded that I am not parenting my children on my own authority or with my own set of standards. I can (and should) teach my children not to respond in anger, not because I have perfectly mastered my emotions, but because it is what God has commanded. He has given the standards and He has placed me in a position to teach them to my children. I am the middleman. The standard doesn’t change just because I struggle with it too.
I can (and should) offer grace to my children because it has been offered to me. I can understand their weaknesses. I have the same ones. I know from experience that it can be frustrating to struggle over and over to do something only to still not succeed. I know how hard it is to have a good attitude when you are tired or hungry or both. I know the disappointment of an unmet expectation. So even though the standard doesn’t change, my disposition in correcting them does. I am not upset with them for sinning. But I do want better things for them. Amazingly, Jesus knows our weaknesses too.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
I am in a great position to teach my children what to do when they need help. God did not give us these standards as a way to measure up and please Him. He gave them to show that we can never measure up. If I only ever tell my children what they ought to be doing, they will be crushed under a burden that they cannot bear. But if I tell them the standard, and then when they are groaning under its weight, I point them to Jesus– I have given them hope. In the moment when I slammed down the strawberry lid, I revealed the sin in my heart. Anger and impatience. But, at that moment, discouraged by my sin, I saw the gospel. I saw Jesus who took the punishment I deserved. I saw Jesus who instead of being crushed under the weight of the Law, fulfilled every bit of it perfectly. Here is my refuge from sin. Here is where I want to help my children find refuge.
“I know you’re angry right now. Mommy gets angry sometimes too. We both respond in ways that do not please God. But Jesus never sinned in His anger. He is our perfect example. And you know what? God knows how we have a hard time and He wants to help us. We can ask Him to give us hearts that respond in patience and in trust.”
Tomorrow is Easter. I have been encouraged to see so many people intentionally remembering and sharing why we celebrate. Let’s make sure that we also are intentional with our kids. When they mess up today, tell them about Jesus. Tell them it’s because of Easter that we have hope and a way out of our constant struggling. Tell them that Jesus is alive. Tell yourself and rejoice!