I mommed hard this morning.
Wet sheets from the night. Wet three-year-old. Two hangry children and only one measly waffle left in the freezer. Overflowing oatmeal in the microwave. Meltdown over playdough. Pulled hair. Meltdown over wrong carseat (the cupholders - too sticky). Tears in the car. Rummaging for gummies, bars, anything edible. Hugs and kisses and coaxes to go into daycare. This, all before 7:30.
And I only swore once! [And it was under my breath so that hardly counts.]
And the beauty of it, the true wonder, was that as I drove away from daycare into the great wide open day ahead, I smiled and felt a flutter of something new and promising beginning to ripple through me: a recognition that I did better today than I have in the past. A satisfaction that I was able to keep my cool, that my sense of peace inside had remained quite undisturbed despite the turbulence of the morning.
At the start of the summer, I prayed God would give me patience. I was disturbed to find that there was an anger bubbling inside of me, a sense of frustration that was constantly an inch away from boiling over. Meltdowns and middle-of-the-night wakings and whiny car rides and thrown suppers made me want to lose my mind. I yearned to be a warm embrace, a million more chances, a gentle word, but I ended each day feeling more like a rabid animal backed into a corner.
I yearned to be a warm embrace, a million more chances, a gentle word, but I ended each day feeling more like a rabid animal backed into a corner.
And yet, despite my fervent prayers that God would make me better, would produce those fruits of the spirit I desperately lacked in my mothering (gentleness, self-control, patience - those ones), the kids kept hitting each other and I kept losing my cool and I started to wonder if God was just gonna leave me to duke this one out on my own.
But this morning I realized, all at once, that God has been answering this prayer of mine all summer long, and it has looked like some wild and raucous struggle but it was actually his grace, applying steady pressure until my character bent and transformed into something better.
There's this verse in the Bible that says we should "rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3-4), and man have I hated that verse in the past. Rejoice in our suffering? Yeah, okay. Maybe supernaturally amazing people can rejoice in their suffering, but for the rest of our mere mortals? Impossible.
... (what) looked like some wild and raucous struggle ... was actually his grace, applying steady pressure until my character bent and transformed into something better.
But as I sit here and reflect on the morning, I realize that I have gotten to the hope part. This summer, I have suffered with my lack of patience for my two beautiful children. And God? He let that struggle continue, knowing that only in its continuation could I develop endurance. And slowly - so slowly that it was almost imperceptible to me, my character grew. This morning was evidence. I was able to be less shaken, more loving, and more grace-filled toward my children in a situation that would have previously pushed me over the edge. And that gives me incredible hope. Hope that God will continue to grow my character. That he will not, in fact, leave me to somehow become better on my own. That he is a God who answers prayers even when it feels like he's doing the direct opposite.
You guys, this is the way to rejoice in our sufferings, I think. Getting to a place where we can see that our sufferings are actually God's instrument for our growth. God does not use a magic wand; he's not Oprah, doling out fruits of the spirit [You get patience! And you get patience! And you get love, and peace, and self-control!] Oh, how we wish he was. But he's not in the business of just handing out fruit. He's in the business of weaving it into our character until it becomes part of us, so that it's available to use and impossible to lose.
What part of your character feels like a constant struggle? I urge you to pray. Change likely won't happen in a POOF! But incrementally, bit by hard-won bit, perhaps you too will notice your endurance growing, your character transforming, your hope growing. And at the end of it all, turn around and look back to the beginning, and rejoice in the way your suffering produced something better.