Thursday, March 23, 2006

In Pursuit of Spiritual Fruit

So, what have I been learning lately? Patience, kindness, and control over my emotions and tongue especially in regards to my children.

When my nine-year-old comes to me and wants to tell me a story and I have three others who want to have my undivided attention at the same time, I've had to practice an incredible amount of patience in being calm and just simply listening.

Patience. Listening is such a simple thing. It is so kind and loving, but are we always willing to do what it takes to really listen to our children? I thought about this over and over for the last few weeks and realized that the real reason I don't want to give the common courtesy of listening to my children is the plain and simple fact that I am selfish. That's all there is to it: selfishness. What is selfishness rooted in? Pride. The complete arrogance that insists that I am more important than anyone else. It's the pride that keeps me from being the servant to my family that I am called to be. That wretched pride. Lord, please purge me of it. I must call upon the Lord to help me be selfless and giving of myself in this area. But it takes patience to listen. Patience to realize that the person talking to me is not working on my time frame, my agenda. It takes patience to sit down, put everything else aside, and make the other person more important than myself. This is the crux upon which relationships are built. What is more important than building those relationships within our own families? The Lord is glorified when we do this.

Kindness. When you think of the type of mother you want to be I'm sure it is not the one that yells or is impatient. When you think of the ideal mother, I'm sure you think of things similar to this: The soft-spoken mother who gently, tenderly takes the time to soothe hurt feelings, bandage a boo-boo, sing sweet lullabies, read Beatrix Potter aloud to her children in what my friend Linda calls "British-Mommy" voice. She is the kind of mother who, again, is selfless, not concerned with her own wants, but rather is concerned with the needs of those in her charge. What is the roadblock here? Why do we struggle so with the ability to be kind? You guessed it, it's the ugly "P word" again: PRIDE. It comes down to this: who am I imitating, Christ or Satan? The sin that got Lucifer thrown out of Heaven was pride—he wanted to be God. He wanted to have things for himself, be served, be glorified. Isn't this the same problem we see in feminism? The desire to be over others, to be in control, to have things for ourselves, to make a name for ourselves? Beware the fleshly monster of Pride; it will steal all your joy in the Lord. "... And he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt 10:39). Christ is Who we want to imitate here. If we desire to be kind to our children, and indeed be the kind mother we are called to be, we need look no further than the Book that gives us all the answers that we need: the Bible. Philippians 2:3-8 shows us the example of Christ:

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
THIS is the type of mother I want to be: Lowly, looking upon my children as better than myself, not wanting to be equal with God (Satan's fatal sin), being of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, humble, obedient in death to self. That's a tall order, surely, if were not for the blood of the Lamb covering me and empowering me to overcome my flesh in order to do this. Kindness, the kindness of Christ, there is no other way than His way to be the kind mother I wish to be.

Self-control. I sometimes think that if I can master the basics of this one, all the attributes that I desire in being a mom will fall in line. But that isn't true. What is true is seeking Him first and His righteousness, then all these other things will be added: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). If we seek HIM first, and HIS righteousness, then we will be given the things we need. I think He will honor self-control as one of our requests. The trouble is (I'm learning), that He provides me with many opportunities for on-the-job-training for this one:

My 2 year old spills her milk on the hardwood floor. After making a mental note to self never to have hardwoods under a table where I will be feeding small children again, I fight the urge to blame her for being so clumsy, instead of just realizing that she did the best she could with her precious little chubby hands that the Lord has given her at this time in her life. Self control practiced, self control gained.

My oldest three children want to tell me something all at once (for the fourtieth time today), and the baby is crying because she has a poopie diaper. Suppressing the urge to run screaming from the house with my hair on fire, I pray quietly in my heart for self control and wisdom, then slowly and calmy ask the oldest to go get the diaper changing bin and proceed with changing the diaper while asking all of my children (in a calm voice and with a smile of love on my face) to please take numbers and wait their turn to tell me the important thing they need to tell me. Then, REALLY listen to the important things in their world. Self control practiced, self control gained.

You get the idea. It's in those little moments of trial and temptation that He refines us, making us more like Christ. That is who I desire to be like. This must be my aim.

A simple verse we've been memorizing together as a family is Proverbs 16:24: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." As their mother, I must be the first to set this example. Some things, as my friend Noël once told me, "are better caught than taught." Isn't that the truth?!!

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