There are a lot of things that can be used to test our patience. Am I right? Just take a minute to think about it, and then stand back as the floodgate of examples in your life pours down on you. Right now, I am living in the land of toddlerdom, where I am crusading in unfamiliar territory on the daily, the tantrums come by the hour, and the lessons in patience come by the minute. I’m sure you have heard all of the familiar maxims: “The days go slow, but the years go fast.” “It will only be like this for a short time.” “You can do anything for a little while.” “Oh, but they are so cute!” I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but, in general, they all have a common message of “Hang in there and enjoy it while you can.”
Most days, I really appreciate this encouragement. Hearing it is kind of like pushing a quick reset button, reminding me of this precious short time I have with my two children. But, I would like to talk about the days that I don’t want to hear this at all. The days when there have been so many tears, and most of them, I couldn’t figure out why they were even crying. The days where parenting feels like the loneliest job in the world. The days when I just feel like a total failure of a parent, and I’m honestly wishing that the days would go a little faster. The days where I lost my temper so many times, where my patience was so far over-stretched I feel like, “Why am I even trying any more today?” I know, these are pretty brutal honesties. I also know, if you are a parent, you’ve been there at least once.
I feel like it is some unwritten rule that once you become a parent, while it’s okay to share that things are hard, you are not allowed to get into too many of the specifics of it, and it’s expected that you move on from that part of your conversation rather quickly. Maybe it’s just me, but this has been my experience in most parental interactions. When people ask you how things are going at home, how life is as a parent, how your kids are doing, they probably don’t really want to know the honest truth. Imagine how that would go!
“So, how are your sweet angels doing? They are getting so big so quickly! They must be so good for you at home.”
“Actually, no. They are really disobedient, and we are really struggling with how to get through to them in our parenting. Most days, it feels like defeat, and we take more steps backwards than forward. I find myself getting so upset at the smallest of things because I am so frustrated. There are some days where I am just waiting for them to go to bed just so I can get a break. But, they are getting big quickly!”
Can you imagine? There are probably some people in your life with whom you can be really honest about these struggles, but, for the most part, this could be really awkward! And why? Is it because we are afraid that if we admit these things out loud, we are going to be judged as the worst parents who ever existed? Is it because we are trying to put on a good face that we have this parenting thing down? Is it because it might show us to be weak when we have built a façade of strength and control in this area of our lives?
I haven’t been a parent for very long, but the Lord has used my newer role to bring me to new levels of sanctification and growth in my relationship with Him. With every example I described above, as well as all of the ones I didn’t mention, I heavily feel my inadequacies and my desperate need for a Holy and Perfect Father. What is more, He continually uses my encounters with my kids as teaching opportunities for my relationship with Him. For every loss of temper, He reminds me how much grace He has shown me for each of my sins. Every time I get impatient, God reminds me how slowly it takes me to learn a lesson He has been patiently teaching me for years. When I feel like a failure, He reminds me that I have a Savior Who took all of my failings on the Cross and made me perfect before the Lord.
Hearing “The days go slow, but the years go fast” just doesn’t cut it for these times. The Lord has shown me that I need to go much, much deeper to get the patience, the endurance, and the grace that I need for the most important job and privilege I will ever have—raising my children to know and have a relationship with Jesus. It all starts with my relationship with Jesus first, remembering my sin and my need for Him. Once I get myself back into that vertical alignment with Him, then He shows me how to take whatever situation I am facing and use that to direct my child back to Him! Suddenly, all of this impatience, lack of control, and desire for the episode or situation to be over becomes an incredible labor of love and patience as I shepherd my children. This is something that can only happen because the Lord was involved, not because “I can do anything for a little while.” I have very well proven that I can’t! But God can! And He does this daily.
Maybe what you need to hear instead of “It will only be like this for a short time” is “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:2-5, ESV). Maybe you need to be encouraged with this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV). Perhaps you need to be reminded, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:21-25, ESV).
Be encouraged, friends! The Lord gives help to those who ask for it, His mercies are new every day, and He delights in you and the work you are doing for Him—which is raising those tiny humans! I would also like to quickly add that I have found it incredibly helpful and truly encouraging to have people in my life who will speak truth into my life and these hard circumstances and point me back to the truth that God has for me, which is the only thing that is going to make the changes I need happen. If you already have people like this in your life, then you know how important they are, and you get to be this kind of encourager for them, too. If you don’t have people who speak into your life like this, then getting into a small group at your church is a great place to start!
Much Love, Sweet Brothers and Sisters,