“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven,” says King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. Lately I’ve been going through a season that I’m ready to be out of. At first, I thought that my children were going through a season that I was just ready for them to be out of. And while there is that, my frustrating knack for introspection still brings the grown-up responsibility back to myself.
About three weeks before school started back, my children started fighting with each other. Constantly. Every single day over every single thing. I hate fighting and I hate yelling, and so I would swiftly and deliberately nip it in the bud by yelling at them to stop yelling and then banishing them to their rooms. Strangely enough, this technique proved futile.
Then school started. That Sunday before the big first day came, and I was thrilled! “Finally, these kids will get the break from each other that they so desperately need and some peace and harmony will return to our home!” I thought. But I thought wrong. Four hours before school started that Monday morning, I greeted the day with a stomach virus. Three days later, I was still in bed. Day six, I was still feeling awful. On day eight I came down with a cold. On day ten, my daughter caught my stomach bug. Today makes day 13, and she’s still trying to recover.
While this is clearly only a minor setback in the grand scheme of important life disasters, I’ve been doing my best to elicit as much sympathy from as many people as possible. I’ve spent more than my fair share of time complaining about what a complainer my 4yo is when she’s sick.
Irony, you say? Perhaps, but let’s not get bogged down in nitty-gritty details. Moving on.
So after I finished complaining to myself (and anyone else who would listen) today, I sat down to write out my thoughts. As oftentimes happens when I do this, though, God rudely invited himself into my conversation. It went something like this.
God: What’s up?
Me: I’m frustrated.
God: I can tell.
Me: It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I’m tired and I can’t take the whining and the drama anymore, and there is clearly a reason why I didn’t go into nursing because this clearly isn’t my gifting, and I HATE sickness and I’m just really ready for a break.
Me: Why does she have to whine so much? And why does she have to fight me so much?
God: Yeah, I know the feeling.
God: Nothing. You were saying?
Me: I don’t know. I just know that this parenting gig is getting me down lately. I’m ready for things to be different.
God: I’ve got a good idea! Let’s play a game. I call it “The Holy Spirit Self-Assessment Game.”
This did not sound like fun, but I went along because, well, it was God.
God: I’ll ask you a question, and you answer. Ready?
Me: Sure. Shoot.
God: Okay. Here goes.
Q: Are you exhibiting love?
A: To most people I am.
Q: To your children?
A: Uh…I think so?
Q: Are you exhibiting joy?
A: Mmmm. Not so much.
Q: Are you exhibiting peace?
A: I’m trying to keep my mouth shut as much as possible and not yell at them. Does that count?
Q: Are you exhibiting patience?
A: Can we skip this one?
Q: Are you exhibiting kindness?
Q: Are you exhibiting goodness?
A: I’m trying, but it never seems to work out so well for me.
Q: Are you exhibiting faithfulness?
A: Yes! Definitely yes! There’s one! Ha!
Q: Are you exhibiting gentleness?
Q: Are you exhibiting self-control?
A: Does locking myself in the bathroom count? If it doesn’t, I think it should.
God: This wasn’t your best score.
Me: I know. I think I would score better if my kids were easier. My kids are HARD, man.
God: Yeah. I’m not sure you’re grasping the point here.
God: Do you remember the story of Paul and Silas when they were in prison?
Me: The one where they were singing hymns and praising you after they had been stripped and beaten? And then you caused an earthquake and their chains came off? Yes, I love that story!
God: What do you think you would have done if you were in that jail cell with them?
Me: I totally would have been singing, too.
God: Why do you think that?
Me: Because I love to praise you! And we’re supposed to praise you in all circumstances, right?
God: That’s the idea. Now, what do you think you would have done if you were in that jail cell alone?
Me: I would still have been singing praises to you.
God: You think so?
Me: Sure! Like I said, I want to praise you in all circumstances!
God: So being stripped and beaten and wrongfully put in jail is cause for singing and praising me, but taking care of a sick, whiny 4-year-old for three whole days is cause for a complete meltdown?
God: Just sayin’.
Me: Okay, maybe you have a point. Bringing it back to that test I just took, though…how do I score higher?
God: How do you think you score higher?
Me: ……..I dunno.
God: Yes, you do.
Me: Spend more time with you?
God: There’s an idea.
Me: I know, I know. I’ve just been so busy lately.
God: Yes, Martha, I know.
Me: Wait, my name’s not Mar…oh. Ha, ha. Yes, I know. But it’s really hard for me to slow down. I like to be busy. And I DO have a lot of work to do. And it’s SO HARD to get up any earlier than I already do. Or to stay up late without falling asleep. I just don’t have a lot of time.
God: What do you think your day would look like if you started it out every morning focusing on me? What if you spent the rest of your day reminding yourself of my goodness? What if you thought about things that were true, right, pure, noble, just, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy? What if you stopped complaining about how much you had to do and instead asked me to come alongside you every day and help you find peace in the midst of your busyness? What if you filled your home with beautiful music and loveliness? What if you made ME your goal for the day instead of your “to-do” list?
Me: Yeah, well, that’s all great, Pollyanna, but it’s still not going to make my life perfect, and it’s not going to change my kids.
God: No, it won’t. At least, not directly. But what will it change?
Me: (Sigh.) Me. (Deep, heavy sigh.) Do you always have to be right about everything?
Me: So, you’re saying I’m in this pit of perpetual frustration because I’ve been neglecting my relationship with you? That whole, “I am the vine, you are the branches” stuff?
God: It’s at least a theory worth testing, wouldn’t you say? I heard someone once say, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”
Me: You said that.
God: I did, didn’t I? 😉
Me: So, if I spend more time with you, I might score higher on that test?
God: You’re big on test scores, aren’t you?
Me: Are you kidding me? I’m an obsessive, Type-A personality with a semi-first-born birth order!
God: HAHAHA! Yes, you are. I guess that’s my fault.
God: Yes, child?
Me: I love you.
God: I absolutely adore you.