If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 4.5 years of parenthood, it’s that parenting is not nearly as easy as I thought it was before I had kids. 

I know God says he wants humility in his people, and I tried to live a humble life, sometimes I even felt like I was nailing it (super humble right?)! But man, oh man, nothing in life has humbled me like becoming a mom. Everything I have ever prided myself in has crashed hard in one way or another in the last 4.5 years and I’m sure there’s more to come and that is almost scary. 

I’m learning that God is faithful to build humility in us and we can either submit of our own accord, or through circumstances that might very well humiliate us, or maybe a fun combination of the two. Not because he’s a jerk and wants doormats for children but because He, being God, knows what’s best and will graciously guide us in that.

God used my sweet Evan to highlight this lesson last month. We were all set for a family outing to Lowes to pick up some outdoor furniture for our new house. The boys are usually great shoppers but five minutes in and I thought we should probably reschedule this date. Instead of listening to that wise intuition, we continued on. Fifteen minutes later I was carrying a flailing, raging 4 yr old out of the store and to the car. My mind was whirling with all the things this child deserved, none of which were good. It was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that I was able to get us to the car, him strapped in and me standing outside the running car with tears streaming down both our faces.

He had humiliated me on our way out. I’ll save you the details but be sure every person we passed seemed to look down as to not stare. He’s had these melt downs before, but not in public like this. And as I stood outside the car trying to compose myself I realized that I had always prided myself in knowing my child well enough to prevent these melt downs in public. We don’t go shopping when he’s tired, we always carry snacks for him, we prepare him by talking about expectations and what is and is not acceptable behavior before going into the store. We pray for thankful hearts and good attitudes.

Not only had I not done any of these that morning, but I also chose the opinions of others over the good of my son, and I cried for the hurt and failure of that.

Gunn had told Evan he could get a new shovel for gardening, and so he held it as he whined and complained about going home. I tried to tune out the whining and continued shopping. A few minutes later I had enough, took the shovel, returned it to it’s spot and started our walk of shame to the car. I didn’t want the people around us to think I was catering to a whiney brat, I wanted to make a point that I do not reward bad behavior.

I knew it would set him off into fight or flight. I knew we would likely have a melt down, but instead of choosing an avenue of communication to peaceful resolution I waged war in all the wrong ways. 

On the way home we talked about why he was so angry and why he lost control. God blessed him with lots of words and he was able to explain that Avery kept touching him and his shovel and it made him angry and I wasn’t listening to him and that he got confused and got angry at me because Avery was annoying him.

Selfishness, displaced anger, shouting and crying and doing everything he could to create distance. That describes me to God in so many ways. And unlike God who hears us and meets us, I had instead ignored him and then provoked him. 

He had a lot to apologize for, certainly, but I did too. As parents we get to be the most tangible example of God’s Father heart to our kids. And God often uses our kids to show us the things in our own hearts that we don’t usually see. I got to apologize to Evan and walk him through his apology to me. I got to tell him that I forgive him and that even when he makes bad choices and uses words that hurt me that I still love him. It was not easy because my hurt feelings still wanted distance, but I instead chose to pursue closeness because I really do want to love like Jesus. It was good for both our hearts.

There was forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation and it was sweet. As I continue to reflect on it I also see that lately I have made so many things work based for him, ie finish dinner then get a popsicle, clean your room then get a show, etc. And I think it’s built in both of us this frustration about having to earn, and failing to do so. It’s not like I make him earn everything, but it’s been too much and that shovel was supposed to be a gift from dad and I turned it into reward to be earned. It was just what the Judaizers in the New Testament tried to do with the Gentile Christians. Salvation is a gift but you also have to be circumcised and do these other things to really get it (Acts 15:1-11).

I am so thankful that, as Gunn often says, failure isn’t fatal and it isn’t final. God’s grace is always bigger than our failure and he’s not standing there ready to strike, but waiting to forgive and restore as soon as we humble ourselves and confess and repent

Parenthood is freaking hard, and I am sure God has so many more lessons for me. But I trust that like a good parent He gives me only so much at one time as to not completely overwhelm me. He will do what is necessary to build me up, to train and teach me in a way I can understand. I love that He gets down to my level and helps me all along the way. 

That afternoon, I asked Ev if he wanted to just hang out with me. I told him we needed to buy brother’s birthday gift. I asked him if he wanted a do over for shopping with a good attitude and a thankful heart. He said yes and we had an amazing afternoon, with donuts and Starbucks to top it off! Ah, sweet redemption!

So friends, be encouraged that our Good Father is doing good work in us and is using us to build his kingdom in the next generation!