“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” –Benjamin Franklin
The piercing wails of my firstborn reverberated inside my head. It pained me. I clenched my teeth and hissed, “That’s enough!” I’d had it. Again. My rational self felt small and impotent, a passive bystander to a hostile takeover. It marveled that a petite three-year-old could bring this fury out of me. Possessed by emotion, I grabbed her by the hand and sternly yanked her forward.
What happened next, I would like to claim was the result of the lack of physics in my formal education. Her thin form shot past me with far more momentum than I had anticipated. I watched in slow motion as her sweet, distraught face slammed into the door frame. A split second before her face collided with the wood, that molten fury filling my veins evaporated. In an instant, it drained away leaving only ice in its wake.
Even as contact was made, I snatched her back to me. The worst of the potential impact was averted, but it was not enough. Her frightened screams haunted me and a sort of horrified numbness took over. As her tears soaked my shirt, I knelt there with her in my arms and I begged God to help me stop this insanity. I clutched her so tightly she began to squirm.
In despair, I realized that the bogeyman in my daughter’s life was me.
Let me first say, that sharing that memory is incredibly painful. I don’t particularly enjoy owning it, let alone offering it for public consumption, but I feel the Lord saying, “It is time.” I wish I could tell you that I became a completely different person that day but, while I was very careful to never again allow my anger to manifest physically, I continued to be controlled by my temper.
Most who know me now would be surprised and appalled at the type of mama I used to be. I was reactionary and impatient. I would blow up and spew verbal vomit on my children. I got angry far too easily. Worse, I sometimes liked it. At times I felt downright righteous in my anger at their wayward ways. My tirades became so common, my children no longer flinched. They knew if they could just hunker down, the volcanic nature of my emotions would soon burn out and we could all get on with our day.
Why do I bring this up today? Over and over again these past few weeks, I have read stories of angry mamas who are desperately seeking a solution. I see mamas all around whose tempers are barely in check. I hear the hissed instructions and I read their body language reflected in the tense demeanor of their children.
In some of you, I see the shame glistening in your eyes after you’ve lost control. It is my earnest desire to encourage you that change can happen. And while I hesitate to speak these words around the plank in my own eye, I find even more distressing those of you who feel justified in your anger. Thankfully, no matter where you fall, our Lord is gracious and merciful to all who repent.
As I’ve prayed about this, a few reminders came to mind.
*Remember that your children are children. These barely sentient beings are self-centered and immature. This is normal child development. They are not sitting up late at night, plotting new and creative ways to push our buttons. They will spill their milk again and again. They will harass their siblings and make mess after mess after mess. They will balk at learning math or spelling. They will lip off and desire their own comfort above all things. This is normal. They will make you crazy with frustration, but here’s the rub: we are the grown ups. And as such, we must set the example of self-control. It is our job to train them up to our moral standard, not browbeat them out of poor behavior.
No matter how angry you feel, nothing justifies verbal abuse.
*Remember that we are our children’s first glimpse of the nature of God. To them, we are all-powerful and all-knowing. Until they can comprehend the mysterious nature of their Creator, they look to us. What do we tell them? What do they read in our eyes, in our body language, and in our tone? While it’s true that we must fill a dual role, both that of loving parent and administrator of discipline, what are we characterized by? Love, or wrath? Do they know in the depths of their being that we, and God, delight in them? Or are we giving them the mistaken impression that they somehow don’t quite measure up?
No matter what our children do, nothing justifies reflecting a distorted version of the God we claim to serve.
*Remember that our children do not belong to us. In fact, here’s a mind-blower for you. These miniature humans that share our homes are actually our brothers and sisters in Christ. How do you act toward the little old lady in church who has offended you? How do you speak to that obnoxious person in Bible study who rubs you the wrong way? Do you lecture in loud tones, give them the frigid silent treatment, or scream at them? Of course not! We think before we speak. We remain civil regardless of how we feel. And when we are at our best, we even offer grace. So why, oh why, should it be any different with our kids?
Nothing justifies disrespecting children of the Most High, regardless of their age.
So is it wrong to feel frustration or anger? Of course not. It’s what we do with those emotions that matters. Be angry, yet sin not. (Ephesians 4:26a) When we allow our anger to spill out and rule the day, it becomes sin. When our anger compels us to speak poisoned words that wound and shred tender hearts, it is sin. When this is habitual, it becomes like a disease, rotting us from the inside and infecting those around us.
The God we serve loves your children with abandon. He is crazy about them, which is why He gifted them with YOU as their parent. If you struggle with the sin of anger, know that our Lord can and will equip you for this task if you will but ask. He loves you too, Mama. He longs to drench you in His grace and wisdom.
I am living proof that our gracious Father is fully capable of regenerating one’s heart. It did not happen overnight for me, but I’m actually grateful for that. Instead of providing an instant ‘fix’, my Lord has shown me that I can rely on His power, not my own. I have seen that His mercies are indeed new each and every day. For every one of us.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT)
*Photo by cbenjasuwan at freedigitalphotos.net