It was a few weeks ago, when I was caught up in the business of fixing breakfast, starting school with the kids, dealing with messes and noise, that I really tuned my ear to something. Not the voices around. Not the feet running to and fro through the kitchen. It was me that I tuned into. What I was saying. How I was responding. I had to pause a minute and think. I had to stop and consider. What was going on with me?
When did I become so short in my responses? When did I become so sarcastic, and carry such a tone of annoyance in my words? I used to sound different. I used to be more patient. What has happened?
And as I often do to add some cheer to our home, I flipped on the radio that sits on our kitchen counter-top and let the happy tunes fill the room and help with the bad mood, not from the kids, but from me.
As God would have it a radio talk show soon came on about parenting. Two women began sharing what they had learned about the way that they spoke to their children, and the changes and impact it had had on their family dynamics…and their children. I listened through tears that morning, because if I was being honest with myself, I had been spending a lot of my energy in parenting popping off short, sarcastic annoyances which undoubtedly were translating to my children something loud and clear…
I could offer so many excuses for my attitude change and the subsequent change in the tone I had found hanging around in all I said and did. We had just moved, after all. Not only just moved, but moved into a 102 year old home requiring extreme work at every turn. My to-do list was longer than 15 women could complete, and I hadn’t had a full night sleep in around 10 months. Any woman would be responding just the way I am! Or would they?
The truth was, stacking up my list of excuses, no matter how extreme or unique they were didn’t make me feel any better about my bad attitude. I knew The Lord was asking me to deal with this issue. I knew that it needed to be settled.
That morning I sat down and prayed.
God…I’m so sorry for walking in this lack of love in my words and attitude. I know you have everything I need! I’m running to you with my inadequacy, and asking you to fill me afresh with your Spirit, which I know always responds in love.
The Lord never ceases to respond when I need Him. Ever. I was quickly reminded of a powerful scripture in Galatians (6:7-8)
Don’t be misled- you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
When I spout off my quick, agitated responses; when I respond out of my anger and my irritation, I surely am not walking by the Spirit. What kind of harvest do I want to reap in my parenting? By all means, life! I want my children to be strong in knowing how to live a life of love! How can I ever expect to reap such a harvest if I’m not sowing to the Spirit. That’s just it. I can’t.
Sowing seeds that will bear eternal fruit means taking the time to do things right. It means stopping and handling what needs handling, in love. It means being a vessel that the Lord uses to bring about direction in my children. When I’m walking in my flesh, I tend to handle things quickly. I usually pipe off whatever will settle the issue in a hurry without much real effort, even if I know it’s only a temporary fix.
I’ve been refreshed recently in what a HUGE thing love really is. In our religious thinking, it would be easy to assume that faith was the biggest and most important thing. But Paul says something quite different in 1 Corinthians 13. The infamous “love” chapter.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in partand we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Apparently it doesn’t matter what you’re believing God for or what your talents are, it’s all worth nothing without this thing called LOVE. It’s the one ingredient necessary for impact. It’s the foundation and it’s who God himself is. It cannot be overlooked and it cannot be sidestepped. If I want my children to have a desire to live for what’s eternal, then I should seize this grand opportunity and calling for them to see this love coming from the Father, flowing through me as an unworthy mama, and flowing out to them, in my words and in my attitude. And when I’m a poor example of this perfect love of God, thankfully, I can fall back into the matchless arms of grace. There I’m dusted off, and lifted up to start anew again.
I’m not certain where or when my words had gotten so off track, but that one morning in my kitchen is having a revolutionary effect on our household. I am learning, and slowing down again. Things are changing. When I stop a sibling squabble and we take the time to discuss the heart of the matter and I pray over my children; when I stop to teach them God’s Word that applies to that situation…that’s sowing life into these blessings of mine, and I’m able to cheer with delight when I see fruit coming from it. It’s beautiful. It’s training them to stop and consider God’s Word and plan before reacting in anger. It’s teaching me to do the same.
What’s the use of a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal? I want to be an instrument resonating the love of the Father, not just when there’s peace- but even in the dirty diapers, in the tantrums, in the noise, and in the hardships of life. These are all opportunities to sow in love. And in so doing, I believe the harvest will be sweet indeed.