” You’re mean! I want out of this family!” E, age 5, screams at me as she kicks off her shoes.
I take a deep breath. “Honey, please put on your shoes. We need to go.”
“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!!”
I wrestle her shoes back on her little feet, only to have her refuse to put her jacket on. B (age 7) waits patiently by the door, shoes and backpack on, ready.
“Thank you for being ready, B. Let’s go.”
B unlocks the back door and walks out to the car. I pick up E and carry her, her jacket, and her backpack and plop them in a heap into the car.
B buckles his seatbelt. “Why does she do this ALL THE TIME?”
I don’t know. I really don’t.
We arrive at school and I walk them to the front door and give them kisses. At this point B usually takes E by the hand and they walk in together. But not today. E’s not having it. At all. I look pleadingly at my son, saying, “Please take her in, honey. She’ll be fine.”
I peel off E’s death-grip and B seizes the opportunity to whisk her through the door. I turn around to look as I walk back to my car. Hand in hand, I watch them disappear down the hall. She’s fine. Her tears are gone. She has a slight bounce in her step. When I pick her up this afternoon she will greet me with a huge smile and a hug–my sweet happy girl. I check the time. It’s 7:42 a.m. and I’m already emotionally exhausted from this battle. I pray out loud for my children as I thank God for the green lights on the way to my 8:00 class.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but this scenario has played out (with subtle variations) more times than I’d like to recount since school started in mid-August. I run through the checklist of things that are within my control to help the mornings go more smoothly: 7:45/8:00 bedtime: check. Clothes laid out the night before: check. Healthy breakfast: check. Morning cuddles: check. Morning devotion: check.
Am I a perfect parent? No. Far from it. Am I good parent? I think so.
And then it hits me.
I am not responsible for my children’s behavior.
I think about that.
I am responsible to them. It is my job to provide for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. But how they respond to these things is their choice — their own free will. They can either embrace or reject these things. Even though Steve and I know what’s best for our children, it’s not always what they want to hear (or do.) All we can do is build up their trust and try to guide them to make the best choices.
You know where I’m going with this.
Sometimes I can have very selective hearing when it comes to listening to the voice of God. He often calls me into situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Maybe even a little scary, like the first day of school jitters, or when he wants me to engage a threatening-looking stranger in conversation. Many times my gut reaction is to question if I’m truly hearing from him. Of course, usually I know when it’s Him, but somehow I figure that little hesitation can buy me some time.
“Oh, you’re talking to me? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. You want me to do what, now?”
But once I hear I’m faced with a choice: trust and obey, or doubt and go my own way.
I think at the root of her tantrum this morning, E just didn’t want to be away from me. She wanted to be close. Separation can be scary — especially when you’re five years old. That’s why trust is so important. I want her to trust me that I’ll be back at the end of the day. I want her to trust her teachers and her classmates. And I want her to trust her Savior when He tells her, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I want to trust Him, too, and I want to show my children the right response to trust: obedience. Not out of fear, but out of love.
My default mode is to stay safe….wrapping myself and my loved ones in protection. Trust is risky. You could get hurt.
“But, God….what if I fail? What if this person lashes out towards me? What if I look foolish? What if….”
I can trust the One who died for me. And I can peer into my daughter’s heart and see my own fears reflected there….they’re not so different from my own.
He Leadeth Me
Text: Joseph Gilmore
Music: William Bradbury
1. He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me,
by his own hand he leadeth me;
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.
2. Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
by waters still, o’er troubled sea,
still ’tis his hand that leadeth me.
3. Lord, I would place my hand in thine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
content, whatever lot I see,
since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
4. And when my task on earth is done,
when by thy grace the victory’s won,
e’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
since God through Jordan leadeth me.