Yesterday at church as my husband was doing announcements before preaching, I came up from the nursery to see my 3 year old at the pulpit by his leg. He handled it well and she came back to me in the pew, while I grinned as the entire church watched this all play out. Now, how would I have responded to my 3 year old at home WITHOUT 200 eyes looking at me? Is there a gap between how I respond to things in private vs. public? If someone was a fly on the wall of my home what would they observe? Of course we are all different to a degree in the comfort of our own homes. I wear things at home I am not going to parade around church in, I have inside jokes & teasing, playful things with my husband I will not share around others. We have family quirks just for us, not for the world to see. This is not what I mean. When evaluating this area of my life in a healthy way, I am referring more to my heart, my spirit, how I am relating to God. How do I speak to my kids when giving general directions or when correcting? How do I respond when the clothes I just spent 30 min folding are thrown around the floor? In our home, how do I speak about other people not present? How do I speak to my husband? How do I use my time, my energy? How do I use my phone? Is what I post indicative of reality or making myself look good, showing my good works before men? Or is it a healthy, truthful representation of my life, my kids, and authentic? And is my phone or something else making me far less present with my family or am I exercising wisdom with my time?
Our life in private and the thousands of decisions we make when no one is looking will eventually spill over. Charles Spurgeon said, "Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than a talented hypocrite." And when there is too big a gap between our private & public life do we run to fix it or try harder or fake it better? No, we cannot attempt to touch ourselves up and make ourselves something other than we really are. Instead, we need to first run to Christ, the one who takes us as we are but promises not to leave us as we are. He has sent his Spirit on a mission to change every part of us, in every context of our lives. So as we depend on the Holy Spirit's power instead of our own ability to patch up our morality we slowly but surely become authentically Christian in private and in public.
If we are united to Christ, the Holy Spirit is cleaning us from the inside out, making us more Christ-like. So when we are hypocrites, when we are harsh with our kids, when we do things that make us feel the weight of our sin, we run to him for forgiveness and grace. He's lived each day perfectly on our behalf-in private and public. And then by his Spirit's grace and power we strive to close that gap between public and private a little more each day, knowing he is with us as we do so.
These are the words Calvin told me a few weeks ago. My first thought was "How dare he call me that, I am not a mean mommy. There are lots of mean mommy's in the world and I am not one of them." But once I set my pride aside, I realized that he was right. I am a mean mommy.
Calvin was not listening to me for something I can no longer remember from the stress of the day. Max was trying to get my attention while I was preparing our lunch, and when Calvin chose to disobey me again I reacted. If I remember correctly, I said something along the lines of, "Calvin, stop that right now. Why do you keep making me repeat myself!?" (in a louder than normal tone, but not yelling).
The problem with me reacting and instead of responding is that I was being a mean mommy. My kids never do well when I raise my voice or do not get down to their level. I also was not doing our normal routine of correction when one of the boys isn't listening to us. Normally, I will get down to his level to ask him 1) why he did what he did, 2) respond with a consequence for his action, and then 3) talk about how we can change the behavior moving forward.
A few years ago a good friend of mine who moved away told me about sinning against our kids. It never really made sense to me until recently and now I can see how I let my own sin affect my kids. Was it my fault Calvin chose to keep disobeying me? No. He did the action of course. But I chose not to respond correctly because I was too pre-occupied. I also chose the path of anger instead of the way of grace.
Patience has never been a trait of mine, but I can see more clearly now how desperately I need it with my kids. Later on that same day, I apologized to Calvin. I told him I was sorry for being a mean mommy and asked him to forgive me. The best part about having a young child is their forgiveness. They do not hold grudges and they love us unconditionally.
As adults, we hold grudges and have a hard time with truly forgiving someone. With kids it is so easy to forgive, forget, and move on. They teach us how to forgive one another, and even more so remind us of the forgiveness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Today I am "The best mom in all of the universe," thanks to me buying him whipped cream. Kids need grace and forgiveness just like us, though. We can easily forget this when we're going about our busy day. We need more grace and they need grace too. My prayer is that I will not sin against my kids so much and by God's grace will breathe first before responding harshly toward my kids. Lord, have mercy on us parents.
Monday and Tuesday Nick and I were in San Clemente with a great group of local pastors and wives in our presbytery (we are part of the Presbyterian Church of America, or PCA for short). It was very encouraging to meet and connect with other couples that are in a very similar stage of life as us and also laboring in ministry in Southern California. The whole event was exactly what we needed: encouragement, fellowship with couples we could relate with, and some alone time. The one thing that stuck out to me the most from our discussions with other couples was when our small group leader asked us "Do you guys have people in your life that check in on your marriage and family life? Do you have another couple or a friend who you feel comfortable with sharing your struggles and burdens with?" Many of us have a handful of close friends and family whom we trust and love, but to have someone that you can come to on a different and more intimate level with is another story.
And it was not a surprise to me that most people did not have people in their lives that checked in on their marriage or that they felt comfortable with sharing things about their marriage/family with. Yes, our spouse is and should be our best friend and most intimate partner, and they should be someone we can go to about anything. But what if you need advice and counsel from someone about your spouse? If you need encouragement about sin you are struggling with or a rough patch in your stage of life? Who then should you turn to?
By God's grace, Nick and I were able to confidently say 'yes' to that question. We do have this support and I do not share this with you to boast but to share how valuable these relationships are for our marriage. When sharing such deep and personal situations with someone that is not your spouse, there is a lot of wisdom that goes into finding and trusting someone that you can open up to. A lot of the time our pride and sins get in the way of being able to admit to someone that we are sinners and in need of help. The support and encouragement both Nick and I have received from our "check-in friends" has been invaluable.
So if you are contemplating if you should have someone to help keep you accountable and encourage you like this then please let me reassure you: it is worth it! I have found it most helpful that my friend is almost the same age as me, has the same amount of kids as me, has similar philosophies as I do in parenting and in life, is a pastors wife like myself, and is obviously a Christian. Both of us feel as though we have two-way communication with our friends in that it is a two-way street of checking-in with one another. If you can't think of a friend whom you could pick up the phone and call and share deep parts of your heart with, then try being that kind of friend for someone else. If you know a friend who is going through a dry valley or could use some encouragement, reach out to them. A card, phone call, bible verse/passage, or coffee date can not only help that person but their whole family as well.
Our conference leader and Nick's professor at Westminster Seminary, Dr. Dennis Johnson quoted a murder mystery book in which the main character tries to get cracked and broken people to admit 1. I'm wrong. 2. I'm sorry. 3. I need help. and 4. I don't know. These are four sentences that are difficult for any person to admit and reveal to someone. This struck a cord with me since I often find myself struggling to discuss things like this when something is not going as planned. Having a friend to confide in can not only help you confront your sins, quite possible save your marriage and family life from ever slipping away from you, but they also can and should constantly lead you to the cross--the only place where we are reminded of our nakedness before God, and our shamelessness through Jesus Christ. It is there where we are forgiven, restored, and renewed.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens."
Colossians 1:9-10 - "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as walk in a manner worth of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."