The muffled sobs coming from the other room break my heart.
And yet I know that they must occur in order to heal.
As I listen, I suddenly realize that this is what my parents meant when they said, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”
I saw it coming: the words, the disobedience, the defiance. I prayed in my heart that it wouldn’t escalate, but my gut knew the path we were on.
I wish I knew how to handle the emotion. I wish this were a “how-to” post, so I could proclaim to the world that I have this discipline thing nailed.
P.S. I don’t have it nailed. Not even close.
I have learned that shouting matches rarely accomplish anything, even though they make me feel better. So, when my patience is strong, I sit and I wait with her. I stay silent, I do not make eye contact. Those things will come.
And in the calm after the storm, there is sometimes a glimpse of a rainbow. Emphasis on sometimes.
About a year ago, after the battle had raged, I asked Kate about her feelings and what happens when she feels the anger boil up in her. It’s something I am striving to understand– I was not strong willed like she is; I also didn’t have a sister die. This combo proves toxic. I want to know how to help her, how to steer her in the right path, how to protect that strong will and bend it in the right direction.
Kate looked at me with her big, brown eyes, and very stoically told me, “Mom, when I feel angry, I ask Jesus out of my heart. When I’m feeling better, I just ask Him back in.”
I didn’t know what to do with that statement. Honestly, the thought had never occurred to me. I sat there, totally speechless, part of me wanting to laugh at the creativity of my daughter, another part of me genuinely concerned about her developing theology.
I’ve heard sanctification described as a dimmer switch. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, He begins to show us areas in our lives that need a little work (or a lot of work!). And slowly, as we process more and more, He turns up the light a little more and a little more.
All of a sudden, we see something over in the corner that we hadn’t realized was there. We notice an issue we thought we had pushed so far back in our mind that it wouldn’t reappear again. We take a deep breath and face it head on. And all the while, God is there with us. He doesn’t expect us to clean up the mess while He watches us with the eagle eye in the far corner. He promises to be right there, helping us, guiding us, loving us.
This renewing our minds? It doesn’t happen in an instant. Transformation in our actions, interests, and attitudes is a process and it’s often painful. As I get older, I realize that the transformation is deeper, as I begin to explore my motives and I ask questions of why I do what I do. My sins become less about what I’ve done (lying, cheating) and more about the attitude of my heart (selfishness, envy, gossip). Not only does sin become more painful to confess, it’s also easier to keep secret.
Kate’s statement on that day was probably a very age-appropriate response to her understanding of God. In her mind, she knew she was doing something wrong and she didn’t want to disappoint God in her actions. So she took Him out of the equation.
Kate’s conversation that day has replayed many times and is helping me to pinpoint times in my life that I ask God to politely step aside and let my own humanness take over. I see how I let myself take over, assuming that when the moment passes, I’ll ask Him back in, expecting Him to forgive me in the process. And how this must grieve Him!
I’ve been reading Romans 4 several times a week for the past few weeks. It’s changing me and changing the way I think and act.
“What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.'”
Romans 4:3, The Message
I so desperately want to get it right on my own– to prove to God that I’m good enough for Him to love. I want Him to see the shining moments in my life where I do the right thing, and I don’t want Him to be invited when things aren’t so great. But I’ll never get anywhere with that kind of theology.
I want to live in a way that believes God is setting me right– not because of any good thing I’ve done, but because of His sacrifice for me. I want to dare to trust God to use me to do something huge, not because of some talent or random opportunity, but because God has called me to be somebody when I was a nobody.
“That’s why it is said, ‘Abraham was declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right.’ But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us! The same thing gets said about us when we embrace and believe the One who brought Jesus to life when the conditions were equally hopeless. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.”
Romans 4:22-25, The Message
What I want to tell Kate– what I want to tell you and me– is that we don’t have to hide our ugly tantrums from Him. We don’t have to worry that He’ll be embarrassed of our behavior or anger. And even if we ask Him to leave, He won’t. He wants us all, He loves us just that much. And if we could just see what trusting Him could do, our lives would be changed. Only He can take the horrible mess we’ve made of our lives and set us right.
Believe who God says you are. Trust Him to do what only God can do.
(Kate’s story has been shared with her permission. Oh my, I do love her heart.) 🙂