As I sit here writing, an empty glass once holding the contents of a modestly sized coke float keeps me company. A coke float makes me think of my mom. It's funny how so many of my happiest memories about her are connected to food and I'm not sure what to think about that. But I digress.
I've had this post on my heart, in my mind, for weeks now. As usual it is about my own motherhood journey, because that's who I am right now. My life energy is used up every day for them, so little left for me, and that's okay. It's who I am meant to be in this season of life. I have a short time to do this well.
I came to a painful realization while enjoying our month away in Bethesda, MD. I realized that in some ways, this season for me could be characterized by a terrible flaw. My children were starting to expect it of me at every turn, it was creeping into everything, showing up more and more and more until it slipped out without forethought or remorse.
In and of itself it may not be a sin or such a terrible thing. It has it's place. I used these foggy perceptions of it as justification for myself. Now let me put this straight for you, this post is not about beating myself up. It is not about pointing the finger or self hate, it's about self realization. It's about a lightbulb, it's about filling a dark space with something bright and whole and healing.
So to start I want to get real. I want to put out in the open the things we are afraid, as mothers, to reveal. We confess snippets of our struggles in guarded phrases, "I spanked out of anger." " I yelled at the kids." Our confessions are heart felt, but I dare say they don't carry with them the true healing He wants to give. In my time away my sin became so glaring, I had no choice but to voice it. See it for what it is. In my anger I had sinned, often, against my children. Here is the part no one wants to say, because we're afraid no one else has struggled this way...
I had sinned by yelling at my children, screaming so loud my first thought was of whether the neighbors could hear through walls and closed windows and fences and yards. I had spanked in the moment, hot and fierce, angry hand slapping bare bottom, or tops of precious heads or backs of hands in moments of ugly and raging frustration. I have pushed little bodies in the direction I wanted them to go (at times causing them pain), I have yanked them quickly into car seats out disgust at how slow they moved (because I was running late). I have told my sensitive little boy that his tears were annoying, that friends would not like him if he carried on so much. I have crushed spirits.
But here is the light. I am made new. I write this and my eyes and my heart and my hands, they have been made new by the changing of my mind set. In the original Greek, Jesus uses the word metanoia when referring to repentance. More directly translated it refers to a mind change. Now this is not the same as a simple "change of mind" that might be considered when picking out shoes or ordering a drink at Starbucks. It's not an "in the moment" decision of rushed unimportance. This is an over haul of one's thoughts and the behaviors that follow. God did this for me, and sweet mothers reading this who have struggled, He will show you too.
On this fateful date in August I had a terrible, screaming, lashing out day with my children over petty things. Arguing about watching TV, dragging their feet when I was in a rush. Who knows all the justifications I may have fabricated, but instead of shrugging it off or telling myself I needed to stop this "bad habit" I felt a powerful conviction that I haven't felt in nearly a decade. I knew God was telling me, right where I sat, to "confess and be healed." I jumped on my phone and sent a mass text to ten other women whom I trust to guide me straight, confessing my struggles, asking for prayer. By noon that day the Lord was at work in me in a way I haven't felt since entering this world of motherhood. I felt physically and emotionally lifted, a sense that the spirit was truly moving within me, guiding me and empowering me toward what was true. A metanoia was happening.
I spent my time that day digging into the scriptures, hunched and hungry over my Bible, wearing out my iphone concordance app. I found verse after verse that showed me how deep my anger was. That it is sin. It is NOT a bad habit to break but a poison swallowing my heart, clouding my children from seeing the me I want them to so desperately remember. My anger was a slow trickle of toxin, dripping like slow, steady torture into their little hearts, manifesting itself already in acts of deliberate violence against one another. That day, the Lord paved a way for it to stop.
And friends, family, I feel healed. I realized so often that my anger was brought on by my own poor planning. Not being ready in time because I was distracted by something else (iPhone!). I saw that my harsh words came readily when I allowed disobedience to creep into their hearts because I wasn't tackling it at the first signs of waywardness. And just as I would never allow even a tiny drop of poison to cross their lips, so it must be with my anger. When I see it in this light, it is so much simpler. Cut out that which draws the anger near. No iPhone when I have a place to be, stop the arguing with immediate consequence, don't allow myself to get caught up in a back and forth with them.
Now have I slipped in the last two weeks? YES. But it is different, it's not to the extent it once was. I ask for forgiveness from them, I confess it as it is, I take a breath before I speak. Every time. Because isn't that very breath the sounds of Yaweh? The source of life itself? This is the difference between breaking a habit and holding fast to a conviction and I am here to tell you, it is possible for you. If you have struggled, if you have cried over your darkness of heart, confess these things. Confess them fully, let every dark space empty out in full revelation of where you're been, hold NOTHING back. Ask for prayer, immerse yourself in truth. We come from dust, our lives are but a breath. Don't waste it by trying to hold onto pretense. We've all walked there. We all want out. Take the first...sacred...step.
A few verses (NLT) that continue to steady my path:
Control your temper,
for anger labels you a fool. (Ecclesiastes 7.9)
Sensible people control their temper;
they earn respect by overlooking wrongs. (Proverbs 19.11)
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other,
making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (Ephesians 4.2)
Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1.20)