Thursday, February 19, 2015

Confession # 73 - Am I growing?

photo credit: <a href="">Grow</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>
My best friend tells me that I am growing in my walk with the Lord all the time.  She encourages me whenever I feel like I've blown it she says, "Well that showed progress."  And perhaps she's right ,but I don't always feel that way myself.  Most of the time I feel like I was only just inches, just moments away from blowing it...

In particular there was an incident this weekend in which I came really close to blowing it.  I've mentioned in the past that I'm Italian so it should come as no shock and surprise that I have a temper.  But I'm also a mamma, which mean when you mess with my kid, you get the protective mamma bear and the Italian temper in one big explosive package...

On Sunday we attended a birthday party at a local kid's museum.  After the party the children were allowed to enjoy the museum on their own.  My daughter took off with her friends and I sat down with the rest of the parents for a little quiet time and conversation.  After a while it was time for us to leave and as I was collecting my things, saying goodbye to my friends, and rounding up my daughter a woman came over to me and asked, "Is that your child?" (pointing to Lexi).  I said yes and then she came out with, "Well she's got some real aggression issues!  She hurt my daughter."  Her passive aggressive tone was quite evident.  Immediately I apologized for my daughters behavior and before I could do anything further the woman just walked away from me.  I looked around at my friends as if to say, "What just happened?" then I took my daughter by the hand to go and find the woman in hopes of smoothing out the situation.
After a moment I located her and once again apologized for Lexi and I told the her that I would speak to my daughter about her behavior and then asked if her child was okay.  Rather than answer my question she said, "Where were you?"  With a finger pointed in my face she continued, "You're kid's been going wild for over an hour and you were no were in sight!  You need to be watching your child, if you had been around this would have never happened."  (Incidentally, I could have been three feet up my child's backside and it still could have happened, but I digress).  My initial response was to ignore her blatant attack and I bent down and asked the child if she was okay.  The child, who was not crying, did not need an ice pack or band aid, said she was okay.  I apologized again then I looked at the woman and said, "You know I really am sorry about whatever Lexi did, we are dealing with some issues and I will address the situation to her."  But I just couldn't resist, I couldn't hold back and I continued with, "However, you don't have the right to tell me how to parent my child."  Her reply was, "I think I do as long as it involves my child!"  My answer, "No you don't.  You don't have the right to tell someone else how to parent their child or to question their motives.  You may have the right to an opinion, but keep it to yourself."  And I walked away.

That may have shown self-control and some growth on my part, but I have to say that if that woman had said anything else to me; uttered so much as another syllable in my direction, this would be a very different story.  The rage inside me was over-the-top and my blood was boiling.  In the past my response would have been quite different and I would have left that place without my dignity intact.

I came so close to loosing it, I wonder was I really displaying growth by restraining myself conscientiously or still sinning because of what was going on in my heart?  To be honest, in my heart, I wanted to punch her smug face and anticipated an excuse to do just that.  I visualized in my mind how it would have looked and how satisfying it would have been just to deck her.  I could feel the energy of a strong punch welling up in my shoulder.   I could see my fist tightening.  I wanted to hear her gasp and feel the snap of her chin as my fist connected with her jaw bone.  I wanted her eye glasses to go flying off her head and her body to hit the floor.

My dear friends, my heart is black; dirty, black and ugly.  So really, am I growing?  I hope so, I pray that I am, but until these thoughts leave me and I can honestly ask for forgiveness for desiring vindication then I'm not so sure there's growth.  Restraint?  Yes.  Growth?  Hummm...not so much.  So perhaps the only difference between myself and my aggressive eight year old child is that I showed greater restraint.  

Restraint isn't growth.  Restraint is more or less the fear of consequences.  And I did fear the consequences, publicly embarrassing myself and my friends, possibly getting arrested, showing my daughter that violence and aggression is the way to solve problems, hurting another individual, frightening children and worse of all loosing my Christian witness.  Those consequences certainly weren't  worth the desire for vindication.  But fear of consequences isn't a lack of sin.  The sin was still there rolling around in my dirty heart.  Still, I enjoy imagining myself hitting the woman.  It's sin, it's evil, and every time I entertain it in my soul I grieve the Holy Spirit that lives in me.

As Christians we need to be growing.  I've written about this in the past, growth in Christ is manifesting the gifts of the spirit, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, gentleness faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Without the outward manifestation of fruit, we can hardly consider ourselves Christ-followers.  We need to be allowing Christ to mold us and change us, not just showing restraint (self-control) in our actions and deeds but restraining our minds not to entertain such black sinful ideas and thriving on them.  I got a rush out of the anger and aggression I felt inside me, I liked it and that's what's scared me to confess.

Do you struggle in this area as well?  Pray with me.  Father I lay bare my heart before you.  Lord I ask that you would forgive me for my lack of growth in my heart.  Forgive me Lord for my thoughts of aggression, forgive me for liking the feeling of hatred and allowing it to feed my soul.  Forgive me for desiring to cause pain to another, and for not entertaining the idea of love and peace instead.  Lord give me the strength I need to love my enemies and to pray for them.  Let my life bear good fruit so that my witness will truly be a image of Christ.  Help me to first of all forgive those who have angered me and caused me pain and allow my heart to be healed.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN

Photo credits: growth photo

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Confession # 72 "What did I do to deserve this?"

Lexi's gloomy face
These last few weeks have been tough with our daughter.  Please don't get me wrong, I love my child.  She is a blessing from God and I thank Him for the privilege of being her mom.  But she is VERY challenging.  I don't quite know how to explain this to those of you who have kids.  Simply because most of you parents out there are probably thinking they're all like that.  But believe me when I tell you she's different.  Without divulging too many details, she takes challenging and strong-willed to new levels.

In particular she's a constant complainer.   NOTHING, AND I MEAN NOTHING you ever try to do for her is ever satisfactory or good enough to make her happy.  It takes a tremendous toll out on me emotionally.  Not because I wish to please her but by anticipating how to avoid meltdown moments and planning ahead with a solution, she quickly turns those ideas into failures by refusing and rejecting my efforts causing the situations to spiral out of control.  Honestly, most of the time I'm convinced that this eight year old child just wants to make everyone's lives utterly miserable, particularly mine. This morning I was crying out to the Lord, "What did I do to deserve this?  Why did you give me this child?"  "I was a good kid, I listened and obeyed. So why God did you do this to me?"

God's response, like always, came in perfect timing.   This afternoon I was reading Numbers 11-12 and came across the passages about how the Israelite's complained about the lack of meat and how hard they had it in the desert.  No matter what God did to supply their needs, by sending manna, keeping the wild animals away, bringing order to the community, providing for the forgiveness of sin through sacrifice, teaching them to prevent the spread of disease by order the infected out of the campsite, they still complained. (Leviticus & Numbers)  It became such a burden on Moses that he called out to God.

Numbers 11:11-15 "He [Moses] asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?  Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’   I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”    

In Numbers 12:3 we read, "(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth)."  But even so Moses' own sister and brother started complaining about Moses himself.  Even this humblest of men could not escape the burdens of miserable people.

Now I don't profess to be the most humble of people myself.  I confess this dirty christian woman has had her share of pride-fullness, however, often I don't  understand what I did to deserve this constant struggle with my child.  I realize that at times I take her behavior personally, because frankly, it's hard not to.  And to compare myself to Moses may seem a stretch; Moses was dealing with anywhere from 2-3 million people and I am speaking of a single strong-willed child. But through this lesson, the Lord taught me more about His character and the character I need to have concerning my child's disobedience.  God was angry with them and He didn't allow them to go unpunished for their sins.  God dealt with the Israelites; he brought a plague onto the them and many of them died (see Numbers 11).

However, what truly spoke to me was how God defended Moses.  Then God called Moses' siblings to the Tent of Meeting and set them straight.  He said to them:

"When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.  But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"  Numbers 12:6-8

Then God afflicted Miriam, Moses' sister, with leprosy.   Please do not think for one second that I wish a plague or leprosy on my daughter or any such other affliction but I do need to punish her for her complaining. 

God doesn't like complainers.  His anger burned severely against the Israelites and Moses' siblings for their transgressions and ungrateful, prideful hearts.  I'm sure God wasn't very pleased with Moses for complaining to God about his burden either.  But God loved Moses so much that when he pleaded on behalf of the people and his sister, God's wrath subsided.  Moses interceded for them.  Jesus is our intercessor.  He pleads on our behalf to the Father.  Likewise I am Lexi's intercessor.  Immediately, I prayed for forgiveness for her and for my complaining and questioning God. Then I asked God to open Lexi's eyes and cause her to realize how blessed she is and how to appreciate her life.  This is a lesson many of us have had to learn in life and it takes time.  (Some of us are still learning this, myself included).  We come into this world selfish and prideful how we leave it is up to us.  I just hope I can leave a lasting impression of joy and thankfulness on her heart so that when she leaves this world she will have lived, "Thankful in all circumstances." 1 Thess 1:18.  Which of course means that I have to set that example!

God also reminded me that He has chosen me as His servant, that He speaks to me, and I am valuable to Him.  He gave me Lexi because He wants me to raise her to know Him and to teach her right from wrong.  Just as God appointed that job to Moses over the Israelites.  God gave Moses his original law, the ten commandments, to teach the people right from wrong. (Exodus 20) He gave Moses guidelines for life through his encounters with Moses.  Moses was faithful to seek God in all matters regarding his people.  (See Levitcus - Numbers)  Which is a reminder to me to seek God in all matters especially those concerning my Lexi.

Finally, I realized that the reason things have been getting so difficult with my child is partially my fault.  It's because I've failed to humble myself and seek Him daily for his guidance.  If you're a parent like me, struggling with your child's behavior, throwing your hands up and complaining to God, "What did I do to deserve this?",  I can relate, but it isn't the answer.  Daily prayer and seeking God through His word is the answer.

She is precious to God and precious to me
Our kids are too precious to leave to their own devices least the world swallow them whole.  We must be warriors on their behalf and intercede whenever necessary.   "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.   We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

We have divine authority over those things that cause our children to behave certain ways.  We have the job to teach them, guide them, pray for them, and intercede on their behalves.  I know I mustn't ask God "Why" anymore, but through my encounters with God daily to be equipped with His word to demolish all things that want to lead her astray from the faith, steal her joy, and rob her of the sacrifice of praise and thankfulness to God.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for answering my question today, that I didn't do anything to deserve this.  And by helping me to discover first, I'm not alone, many others, including your servant Moses, came before me. Next, I have a job to do as a mom to train up my child, (Proverbs 22:6 & Ephesians 6:4) and third that you have given me authority to fight for her over the evils of this world.  Lord I pray for my sisters-in-Christ who, like me, may be throwing their hands up right now and asking, "What did I do to deserve this?" that you would continually send us the revelation of how to deal with difficult situations with our children.  Teach us, mold us and make us into the mom's you have called us to be.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN.