A couple of weeks ago, Anna came home from school telling me she had to sit out both of her recesses. And lest you think she's just overly open and prone to telling us all the bad things she does, let me put your mind to ease.
I've made a habit of asking her and Eli how their day was, what they did, what they learned about. This provides the opportunity for them to share things with us. Likewise, I also will typically ask another time or two throughout the evening. And then I try to actively engage myself in activities with our kids. Like washing dishes. They LOVE to wash dishes and so they'll pull up a chair and get started while I stand beside them, rinsing and drying.
And they talk.
Such was what happened this particular day. And thus began the questions.
"Why did you have to sit out both recesses?"
"Because John (name changed) called me a 'stupid, dumb butthead' and I punched him in the face."
I have to admit. I had to catch myself before my laugh left my mouth. I was shocked and it was in an odd way comical, particularly the way she said it. She was so matter of fact about it.
"You seriously punched a boy in the face?"
"Yes. I told the teacher on him for calling me a bad name and then he ran up and told on me for punching him, so we both had to sit out both recesses."
*Note to self: Teach her not to tattle when she's hit someone in response to what she's tattling about.*
"You know that you're not ever to hit anyone unless they're hurting you, right? Especially over words. You have to learn to ignore them and walk away."
"I know. But he was so mean."
"There's always going to be mean people in life, honey. You have to learn how to deal with them in good ways. Not by hitting."
Fast forward to that evening when we were reading our Bible story about Joseph and his brothers. When we got to the part about him being reunited with his brothers, I asked the question "what do you think Joseph did?"
"He forgave them!"
"So what should we do when people do mean things to us?"
"Is that what you did today?"
"I tried, Mom. I did. I just couldn't help myself."
Alas, there's more to be taught.
What's interesting is that this reminded me of how easy it is to know the right thing to do, yet how hard it can be at times to actually do it.
I've found myself in that situation many times, saying "Not now, Lord." or "I can't. I just can't do this anymore."
Yet I know right from wrong. I know what the Bible says on basically most issues I face from day to day.
Like being patient. Can I hear an "AMEN!" on this one.
Whew, sisters (and brothers reading). This one gets me more than about any other one.
And the sad part is that I know a slew of verses regarding patience and anger. Verses like these:
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18
Love is patient. ~1 Corinthians 13:4
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
I know these verses quite well. But knowing and doing are often two different things.
When my kids are misbehaving and I've told them 3 times already to cut it out, I often find myself standing at a crossroads of sorts..... raising my voice or dealing with their disobedience with patience and kindness, yet remaining firm.
Do you ever find yourself at crossroads like these?
What about when you feel wronged and you have the choice to respond in anger and hatefulness or in mercy and grace?
When God asks you to sacrifice for the well being of others, do you give excuses? Do you think you 'need' another vacation, toy, shopping spree or do you willingly obey and help those in need?
What about when you disagree with the lifestyle someone is leading? Do you try to be understanding and compassionate or do you stand on your pious pedestal and condemn them with your judgmental attitude?
When someone cuts you off in traffic, do you extend grace, realizing you've very likely done the same thing to others at some point in time, or do you yell, throw up your hands, and let out expletives you shouldn't?
When someone does something you don't like, do you find yourself gossiping? Finding the need to justify your unGodly behavior by convincing others of that persons wrong? Do you wish to cut them down among family and friends instead of lifting them up in prayer?
When God requires of you a tithe, do you grimace at the thought of giving back to Him what is already His?
When you're frustrated with your spouse, are you willing to extend forgiveness and not let the sun go down on your anger or are you bitter, offering the silent treatment, and looking for ways to punish him/her?
When you know you should be in church on Sundays do you make excuses?
When you know you should be witnessing to your neighbor, coworkers, and friends and family, do you rationalize that there's no need? That someone else will do it? That you have time?
Are these suddenly starting to hit home with you like they have for me? It's often easy to see where I need to work on things with our kids more. But when I look at them and how they know things versus actually doing them, then I realize I'm not so different from them afterall.
I very often have the "I just couldn't help it" attitude. And the reality is that I could.
We all can. We're all faced with choices of knowing what's right versus putting that knowledge into action.
That's why one of my favorite verses is:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9
If we do not give up.
Yes, it's hard at times.
Yes, there are people who make things a lot more difficult.
But oh friends, look what awaits us! We will reap a harvest if we don't give up. If we're not weary in doing good.
Let's relinquish the "I couldn't help myself" attitude and excuses and begin doing what He has already instructed us to do.
Let's not give up. The harvest awaits.