Just the other day, my four munchkins were piled around the kitchen table eating breakfast. They were silent as the slurped their cereal and I took that opportunity to fill them in on what the day looked like.
"This morning we are going to do some laundry, so I need you all to bring your dirty clothes to my room so I can sort it. Then we have just a few chores to do. Norah, I need you to unload the dishwasher. Aaron, the trash really needs to go out and Ashley, I need you to help me clean up the puzzle in the living room. blah, blah, blah, blah ..."
The kids kept slurping.
I paused in my dishwashing.
"Hello? Did anyone hear me?"
mumble, mumble, nod, nod ... more slurping ...
I turned off the water, perhaps a bit roughly.
"Hey there ... I would appreciate it if you would respond when you hear me talking to you, please."
Four grunts of, "Yes, Mom." More slurping.
Back to washing dishes, with my own internal mumbling and grumbling.
It drives me crazy when they ignore me. I don't talk just to hear myself yammer on. Is it really too much to ask for a little acknowledgement? A little respect, please. grrrrr ....
As the kids cleared their breakfast dishes, I was tempted to remind them of their responsibilities, but I bit my tongue (quite literally) and resisted the urge. Not out of a noble decision not to nag, but out of my yucky old sinful self that partly hoped they would forget just so I could bust them.
Yep. I was having a great morning.
It is at this point that I would like to say with gratefulness and relief that this is not how God operates.
He is not on the look-out - waiting to bust me when I mess up.
He is not harping on me day in and day out, waiting for me to get my act together.
He is not shouting, "Hello? Are you listening to Me?" after every word He whispers.
He is not growling when I miss out on His words to me and He has to repeat Himself.
My God is full of grace.
My God is shepherding me gently.
My God is loving in His words.
My God is eternally patient.
He has had all of history to demonstrate these astonishing qualities, including way back with the Israelites. And that same stubbornness that landed God's chosen people in years of wandering in the desert is very much alive and well in lives of my children and me. Yes ... I would most definitely include myself in that guilty party.
Recently I was shopping for a dress for a friend's wedding. I entered the store with a positive attitude, confident that I would be successful in finding what I needed. But as I began to browse the clothing racks, my confidence wavered. Suddenly my old insecurities about my hips and arms and hiney all began cropping up.
"You don't have the body to pull that off."
"You don't really think that would fit, do you?"
"You don't stand a chance of making that dress work."
With God's help, I had been feeling better about me and I had been better about accepting this body as is, but as I walked into the dressing room and approached that tiny torture room of mirrors, I wanted nothing more than to head for the van.
And that's when I heard God repeat Himself. He didn't yell. He didn't growl. He didn't announcement that He had something important to say. As I closed the changing room door behind me, I heard Him sing to me. Again.
Through the speakers in the changing room came the voice of Bruno Mars singing, "Just the Way You Are". This is a song that God had already used to touch my heart in regards to my self image. And he took this opportunity to reassure me. One more time.
This is how God shepherds my heart. Not always through Bruno, of course ... but always faithfully and lovingly and patiently. And I truly believe that He desires me to shepherd my children's hearts in the same way.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah in Romans 10:21, "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." That would pretty much sum up how I sometimes feel about my efforts to get my kids to be on the same page as me. But it would appear that if anyone knows what it's like to have to repeat Himself for centuries and centuries, it would be God! Not only does God endure our stubbornness and waywardness, but He continues to extend His love to us. This kind of love ...
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
I believe I have quite a bit to learn from God about how to shepherd my kids. Gratefully, He gives me instructions (the verse above) and first hand experience (the story above) so I know how much better His way works.
By the way, I really love my kids. And I love the new dress I got for the wedding, too. :)