Being Holy on Hard Days

Today has been terrible.

The kids sneaked about 100 Hershey’s kisses (which we had hidden and don’t typically even keep in the house!) Just minutes before I was able to get up with them and start on their morning routines. Their ingenuity is actually impressive, albeit infuriating. They configured a way to use a rubbermaid toy drawer as a step over the gate we put up in the hallway, and used a combination of step ladders and agility to get the chocolate off the top of my 7 foot tall herbal medicine hutch. I knew they watched me get the candy down yesterday while we were making my husband’s birthday dessert. I even knew that I should’ve hidden them in a new place after that. But I didn’t. And the fact that I should have to makes me angry- I want obedient kids that respect boundaries, not sneaky thieving kids who wake early and break the rules before the sun even comes up. So that’s how the day started.

Then it took us an hour…AN HOUR… To read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb in morning worship. It should have taken 5-10 minutes. Tops! But between their sugar-fueled arguing and inability to sit still- it took an hour. (Dad, if you’re reading this, THIS is one of the primary reasons why no sugar. Period. It is a drug to them, it tempts them to sin, and it makes my day an horrendous sequence of tantrums and disciplinary measures.)

So we didn’t have breakfast until 10:45, because the chocolate-gorged kids would’ve just wasted it, and morning chores took longer than normal, and…and… And… My list of reasons is a mile long.

Even once we started to settle down, they had the sugar crash and started whining, hitting each other over silly arguments (I don’t know what a Fooey Wooey is, but Hank took offense at being called one, and hit his sister, and she hit him back.) So then we had timeouts, and spanks and talks about loving one another, being like Jesus, being slow to anger, and other toddler talks about appropriate conflict resolution– and I was spent.

I lost my temper at my oldest boy and his rolling eyes and smirky back-talk. I lost. Even after just having a conversation with my sister-in-law about my struggle against anger and my determination to honor God in my parenting. When I lose, my kids lose; My family loses. Because God calls me to be holy, regardless of my circumstances or behavior of other people. And that is hard.

Anger is easy. Anger is easier than taking time to stop and think. Anger doesn’t require me to stop and glorify God for giving me the gift of motherhood. It doesn’t require that I look at my kids with compassion as Image Bearers. And it doesn’t require that I humble myself and put them ahead of my convenience. Anger is an easy rage-filled vent of my injured pride on them, not a holy, God-honoring, heart-moulding discipline and training in righteousness for my kids.

And I failed. I fail so many times. Over and over again. And each failure is hard to overcome. It’s difficult to go to God again and again and tell Him I’m squandering the investment He gave me. It’s difficult to feel worthy of forgiveness, of the new opportunities to do better next time… And it’s difficult to persist with compassion when it seems like nothing I do is working.

How do I be holy on hard days like these?

I can’t. I don’t want to be. I want to curl up in the fetal position and admit defeat. I want to quit. I want to turn in my mom badge and retire. But I can’t do that either.

I can pray. I can speak the name of Jesus through clenched teeth and seething anger. I can beg for forgiveness for allowing my failing flesh and emotions to rule my behavior. And I can humble myself and apologize to my kids when I’ve wronged them, and set the example for humility and repentance. I can admit my failures, and I can ask their forgiveness. Should they obey? Yes, immediately and without question. But I am their picture of Christ’s nurturing love for us. How am I going to choose to represent my Savior and King?

With a self-righteous, offended pride, taking my kids’ sins personally and reacting in anger? Or with compassion, forgiveness, and grace with humility, and gentle and quiet instruction in the Truth?

This is a constant battle for me, between anger and peace. And it feels so hypocritical some days. It takes work to see the joy, and anger is surface and easy. But I know which I choose this day. It is a choice. And I pray God gives me the strength to hold on to Him and seek His holiness, and do more to train and instruct my children than just count the hours until bedtime.

(…it’s getting close though, right?😴)

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