Do not provoke your children to anger…

“Fathers (and Mothers), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord”.   Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

So, as we mentioned in our last update these last few weeks have involved a lot of travel for me and/or Nils.  We were apart on our 11th anniversary, but Nils had a wonderful trip with the Family Foundation directors to the Seattle area (I’ll let him write about that in another entry).  The day after he arrived I went to Mexico City for a few days and then one week later Nils left with a small work group from Harvest Ridge and the rest of the Oaxaca missionary team for the Isthmus, a region in Oaxaca state that is about 5 hours from Oaxaca City, and that is where he is as I write this entry.

What have I been learning during these long stretches of being the only parent with two amazing, adorable, and sometimes difficult to handle young boys?  I truly respect and admire single parents who do all the time what I’ve been doing only a few weeks.  I also realize how much I depend on Nils for help around the house and with the boys.  I am so blessed to have a husband who loves me and his children and with whom I enjoy sharing the parenting responsibility.  I am very thankful for the husband and father God has given us.

I’ve also realized something ugly about myself.  For a hint, reread the verse above.  I have, of course, read this verse many times in my life.  But, usually my focus as been on the verses before this one about children, obey your parents…  And, when I read the part about provoking anger I kind of just glanced at it and thought, no, thank God, I’m not that kind of a parent.

I’m a pretty good parent.  I had pretty good parents myself, so I learned decent habits for raising my children.  I think this is about how I had been thinking of my parenting up until now, when I’ve started to see some things in me I don’t really like.

My boys are not perfect, but they are good boys.  They usually listen and do as I ask, well, sometimes.  But, when they don’t and when they start talking back or ignoring me or whining a lot, that’s when I realize I can get angry and want to control them.  And, just like with other family members, I know how to push my boys’ buttons, which sets them off, and justifies my angry response back at them.  And, I’ve realized that there’s a part of me that wants them to feel what I feel, and that’s where the provoking part comes in.  Pretty ugly, huh?

For some reason, this happens more often when I am alone with them.  I guess I don’t have the back up in Nils when I recognize I may be losing it.  So, this past week, it’s like my eyes were finally opened up to this in me, and I felt awful.  I felt like the world’s worst mom, until, actually, I remembered the passage in Ephesians, and I looked it up.  I read it and cried.  Tears of sorrow and guilt, but also of being understood.  God knows.  He knows the ugly things we are capable of, and he warns us, in his word, in the life of Jesus, by his Holy Spirit at work in us, and he helps us see our great need for him.  Because, you know what?  We can’t do anything without him.  Praise God that his mercies are new every morning, because there are some nights where I can’t wait to start over the next day!  Do you ever feel that way?

I like how Eugene Peterson puts the last part of this verse in The Message, “Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master”.  That is how I imagine the Father with me, taking me, lovingly, by the hand (oh, how I love holding my boys’ hands, when they still let me!) and leading me in the way of the Master.

Lord, may it be so for me as your child and as a mother of two precious gifts from you.  Amen.


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