It’s morning in the mountains. I haven’t had my coffee yet. Olivia, our youngest is asking for milk. The boy, John Wallace and the girl in the middle, Izzie are asking if they can go outside. The oldest wants me to find a song for her on Spotify. None of these requests are designed to derail me. They’re not failing morally. Only they are breaking MY law as clearly stated in 1 Jeffalonians 3:16 which states, “Thou shalt be quiet and let me concentrate in the morning.”
It’s not always me. I live in the house with 5 other selfish little emperors determined to rule a universe of their own invention. Just like me, they often leave little room for a higher authority. Despite my hopes that their adoption meant they would be spared inheritance of my less desirable behavioral traits, it appears otherwise.
Let’s take the boy, JW. He’s the smartest person in any room. Just ask him. I cringed the other day when he spoke to a full grown man the other night in a most condescending way. “So, Eric. What do you do?” It might not look all that bad in print but believe me coming from a kid who has mastered little more than multiplication tables and Minecraft, it came off presumptuous. How did I recognize it as so? For a person who has no reason to be haughty at all, I struggle to exhibit humility. I am reminded of when I first started going to recovery meetings. I focused on how bad the other men in the room were. I didn’t need to be there. “I’m not as bad as that guy.” In reality, I am as every bit in need of men who share my same struggles and dependencies as anyone else.
The oldest, Caroline is smart, a solid student, and no doubt on her way to success in whatever she attempts. She also has a habit of putting her work ahead of more important priorities like familial relationships. Last weekend was Mother’s Day. She gave me a look that could kill when I “made her” go to the mountains with us for the weekend to celebrate both her mother and our new mountain getaway. After all, she had an AP exam. The test wasn’t until Wednesday! She came with us and had a great time but not before spewing some unnecessary vitriol. But, guess what? I know a guy (me) who throws a fit when I’m asked to deviate from the plan. “Who moved my cheese!”
I nearly laughed when the sweet little nine year old Izzie told me that she wanted an iPhone 7. That is, until I could see that she was serious. Her obsession started innocently enough. She would keep using the electronics even after we asked her to turn them off. Then she began to take her mother’s iPad to bed and then to school. Thank goodness our prayer that our children always get caught when they are doing something wrong has been answered because not long ago Izzie’s obsession boiled over when she took another girl’s phone from a slumber party and then just a few days later, I watched her try to do it again after school. I was furious. I was appalled. I lectured her up one side and down the other all the way over to the friend’s house to return the first phone. But then, I was convicted. What haven’t I coveted? I took things that weren’t mine when I was young and continued to do so in adulthood albeit subtler.
This is the beauty of God’s plan. Paul Tripp, in his book Parenting says:
“God uses the needs of our children to expose how needy we are as their parents, so that we would do all that we do toward them with sympathetic and understanding hearts. God is working on you through your children, so that he can work through you for your children.”
It is God’s grace that catches them in the act. But it is also God’s grace that they sin in the first place because it shows them that they need a merciful, patient, and forgiving savior. They are called to lean on Jesus and He uses our worst to draw out our best. If I’m honest, there are few struggles in the lives of our children (materialism, selfishness, apathy, attraction to the world) that aren’t in my life also. Fortunately, I don’t have to deny my weaknesses.