I asked for patience…..the Lord gave me children.
My husband paused mid stride, gazing at the obstacles standing between him and the prize, Elsie’s famous homemade meat loaf. His foe, our linoleum kitchen floor, was a formidable one. It contained a myriad of challenges, thoughtfully arranged by my three children. The first line of defense came in the form of strategically placed puddles of chocolate milk. These puddles appeared to be a brilliant ploy meant to distract my husband’s attention from the next assault, an invisible gooey river of cream soda. In order to avoid the chocolaty puddles of milk, my husband would have to plunge his unsuspecting feet smack into the center of exquisitely aged soda. The sticky soda was a gift lovingly deposited by my two year old son as he had demonstrated, with great enthusiasm, the precise amount of dirt a front loader could deposit into the back of an imaginary dump truck. As it happened, my freshly washed and sparkling clean kitchen floor played the role of the dump truck. His performance brought tears to my eyes.
The final assault, thoughtfully assembled for my husband’s unshod feet, would have made General Sherman proud. Macaroni and tortilla chips seem innocent, but when situated at precise and strategic intervals, they create a force capable of bring even the strongest man to tears. With indistinct guttural exclamations, my red faced and perspiring husband crossed the floor and took a seat.
As I plunged the knife into the aromatic mound of meat laying in the middle of the table, I noticed my husband glancing warily in the direction he had just come. He shuddered as his gaze rested upon the drink he had left at the kitchen sink. I could tell he was mentally evaluating whether it was worth retrieving. Apparently he decided dinner would be just fine without it because he remained riveted to his chair. A sigh escaped his lips and a quick look my direction wordlessly asked the question “did you clean this floor today?” The “hairy eyeball” I shot back at him muted the words before they could escaped his mouth and instead he announced, “let’s pray.”
My kitchen floor is an incredible source of irritation. No matter how many times I sweep, mop, or scrub, by dinner time it has miraculously, collected enough discarded food particles to feed a small third world family. Apparently I have repeated this phrase one time to many because anytime I dutifully recite the ol tried and true guilt trip line “Eat the food off your plate, a hungry child in Zimbabwe would give his right arm for it,” my kids promptly reply, “But mom, don’t we send them what is on our kitchen floor?”
We were at the dinner table one evening, when my son dumped his drink all over my freshly cleaned floor. In a huff, I bounded toward the river of milk as it oozed across the sparkling linoleum tile. I snatched up his cup and exclaimed “Can’t it stay clean for at least fifteen minutes, is that too much to ask?” With great gusto, I threw the cup into the sink and then nosily gathered the necessary cleaning supplies. I gave a smart whack to anything within reach that was capable of producing noise. If I was to be inconvenienced, have my supper interrupted, and my clean floor soiled once again, I was determined to make all parties present, guilty or not, understand the severity the offense that had just taken place. My “righteous indignation” was quickly replaced with shame when my husband crashed my cozy pity party with the words “That’s right Owen, how dare you spill something on mom’s precious floor, stop acting like a little kid.” Immediately, my shoulders dropped in disgrace. I took a deep breath and with shame apologized to my cowering children and very wise and patient husband.
The meal continued without further incident, but I felt defeated and frustrated. We finished dinner and once the kids left the kitchen, I turned toward my husband and with frustration exclaimed, “David, I have a patience and anger problem. I do not like who I am right now, what in the world is wrong with me? What do I need to do in my life in order to react and respond correctly to the kids?” David’s response was not what I expected. I wanted to hear some consoling remark about how great a mom I was and how demanding the kids could be, but his reply was “Well Jody, what “right” do you feel they are violating when they spill a drink on your clean floor?” I looked at him thinking no, you don’t understand what I mean”, but later when I thought about my reaction and the struggle I was having with my patience and temper, I realized his question truly addressed the heart of my struggle.
I asked for patience……..
The Lord must have smiled.
He gave me children….Three of
I have never been a patient person. When I decided to make the Lord privy to my secret struggle, I did something very foolish, I asked for patience. The Lord must have smiled when I made that request, because he answered my earnest prayers and gave me children….three of them. Having children revealed a level of selfishness I never knew or perhaps more correctly never wanted to admit existed in my life. When I asked David how I could become more patient with the kids, I wanted an easy magic wand kind of answer, but his question revealed that my understanding of patience was somewhat flawed.
Patience is not just a Christ like trait I wield when needed, because patience is both the fruit of Christ likeness as well as an indicator of the absence of unChristlike thing in my life. David’s point was that the seed of patience would take root and be evident in my life when I consistently chose to yield my rights and die to myself. Patience is born out of an unquenchable love for others.
“No greater Love hath any man than this than
that he lay down his life for another.”
If you ask, why has the Lord not wiped sinful, disobedient, ungrateful man off the face of the earth, the answer is that it is because of his unfathomable and majestic love. Because he loves me, and because he is steadfast and patient, He sacrificed His glory and honor, postponing what I deserves so that He could ransom and save me. He loved me so much that he yielded all heavenly rights and privileges to rescue, ransom, and redeem me. His love drove, empowered, and enabled him to lay down his life knowing his gift would be rejected, misused, and misunderstood. I looked at patience as a means or tool simply for restraining fleshly impulses. I wanted patience to be like a magical tool I could whip out when I decided I needed it, something that would give me the power to subdue a fleshly reaction, to help me endure a situation. My husband correctly reminded me, that if sin, and in my case selfishness existed in my heart, there was no room for patience and this was why I was unable to respond correctly to my kids.
I can’t have it both ways, just as Christ and unrighteousness can not dwell together, patience and any other ungodly attribute can’t exist in the same body and at the same time. My frustration and anger existed first because I was selfish, and secondly because my selfishness gave place to an anger I rationalized. My sinful response was okay because my “rights” had been violated. These two sins snowballed into outbursts that lacked true love, self-control, and patience towards my kids. The Lord could have sent down a boat load of patience and set it at my feet but it would have been useless to me because when selfishness and sin is present, no room is left for patience to take root and reside.
To win my battle over impatience and anger, I needed to die to my “rights” relinquishing hold of any rewards I thought I deserved as a wife and mother. I could not partition off sections of my life, giving only what I wanted give when I thought it was fair or deserved. True Godly patience is placing the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of my kids and other ahead of myself. It is being willing to invest my life into theirs for as long as I am asked by the Lord to do so, free of any terms or limitations. Patience is not simply tolerating the bickering, clamoring, and demands that my family places upon me, but also seeing their sinfulness and humanity as my opportunity to put to death a little bit more of myself.
Patience is the ability to get up quietly and retrieve a rag, cleaning up a mess without huffs or sullen countenance. Patience is the ability to serve and love with out others noticing it is being done. Patience and love sees each mess as an opportunity instead of an offense. Patience is demonstrating that my love is steadfast and unconditional, not based on a reward system in which the love can be revoked when someone makes a mistake or hurts me. I demonstrate patience when I am able to continuously invest my time and energy into the lives of others, knowing I may never see the fruit of my work or receive a word of thanks or affirmation.
I am not advocating self-seeking martyrdom, but we are called to be servants, and to lay our lives down for others just as Christ did for us. Unlike the men and women who physically served masters out of forced duty, and void of love, we have a promise. As Christians we are given a promise of eternal reward for our sacrifice. “Ye have need of patience, after that ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Sacrificing for my family may not produce perfect kids who never spill milk on my dinning room table, but I have a promise from God the Righteousness, who can not proclaim something and do differently. He promises that when patience fosters obedience to His commands, in the end, there will be a blessing and that blessing is a transformation. What an amazing thought it is. If I die to myself, the day when my house is demolished by three wild kids, Jody the impatient and angry will not be present to respond to her kids. She will be replaced with Jody, the transformed daughter of Christ. This is who my kids will see standing in the middle of the floor reacting to their mess.
How differently my day looks when needs, offences, and sacrafices are embraced as opportunities instead of offences! How differently we look to others when we die to self and allow the love of God to transform our hearts and minds.
Months after my ugly response at dinner, I received a gift from the Lord. A mess had been made, but a mama’s heart was being transformed by the Lord. Instead of harsh words, came consolation and a quiet clean-up. Tears sprang to my eyes, born of both thanks and sorrow when a little voice piped up, “I love you mama, your nice now.”