It started before the mouthwash spilled all over the floor, my jeans, and my new shirt. Which was before my son attempted to use the now-cracked mouthwash cap and promptly dripped the red liquid all over the just-reassembled shelf and all its little contents.
The yelling was after someone tripped into on his way into the shower, sending shelf and contents skittering across the water-logged floor. It was after a different son accidentally dribbled on me while using mouthwash, while I helped clean up the Shelf Incident. Then he laughed about it. (Perhaps I need to eighty-six the mouthwash?) There was backtalk and some whining involved.
Let’s just say I was on a roll. Or something.
That I have an issue with anger (primarily kid-ward anger) and emotional control is not something I’ve kept secret. But it’s still painfully destructive in my own home: “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down” (Proverbs 14:7).
So when my blood pressure had returned to an appropriate range and I determined the mouthwash only minimally soaked my front, I called all of my kids to our little loveseat. Some of them crawled out of bed. They piled around me like puppies.
And I took the time—again, like I have to do so often—to apologize to them and ask for forgiveness. Then, I led us in just praying and repenting to God. It was duly needed for all of us. When my kids blow it—like we all did that night—I consistently seek to remind them, I completely love you, even when you totally mess up. And that’s how God loves me.
I thanked my kids for forgiving me–also not so bad a quality to practice to fluidity–and ended with tickling them into screaming laughter.
(In fact, as I backed out of their room in the dark later, I yowled in pain stepping on an electrical plug someone had left in the doorway. My second son was quick on the draw: “Still love me?” He collapsed in giggles.)
None of this, I’m afraid, undoes what I did.
I wish I could take away my eruptive lack of self-control, or the way I morphed instantly into a drill sergeant. I wish I could subtract what I modeled for my kids: This is how a parent acts when you’re exhausted and have had it up to here.
But what still remained in my power were two words. I’m sorry.
I find great value in the words of Paul David Tripp in his insightful New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. He cautions that when we blame our kids, or the circumstances, or whatever for our own junk,
You are essentially saying: “My problem isn’t a heart problem; my problem is a poverty of grace problem. If only God had given me ____, I wouldn’t have had to do what I did….
It is hard for us to accept that our words and behavior are not caused by what’s outside us, but by what’s inside us (see Luke 6:43-45)….
Subtle patterns of blaming God are in the way of receiving the grace that we need.
I love this connection to humility; to faith (or unbelief). You should know I have an angle on this, though. Out of the traits my husband and I want to instill in our kids, humility makes the top three.
Someday, I told my son tonight, you may lead a company, or a team, or your home. Controlling people won’t help. Humility will. As I look to the presidential race for 2016, humility may be one of my most valued traits in any leader: people who can acknowledge who they are in the eyes of God, and who they are not.
I have seen those words change families close to me forever. I’ve seen an individual hardened and bitter for decades transform beneath the mighty hand of forgiveness. Nations are revolutionized by it (remember Rwanda?); marriages turn an about-face.
I’ve got a theory, see. Parents who are more willing to openly own up to their wrongs—from the negligible to the capital—are more likely to have deep humility. The more we get real about our sin, the more the Gospel is real in our homes…and is more likely to be adopted by our kids.
Let me put it a different way: The more honest we are about our need for Jesus—and the less proud, Pharisaical, or unaware of the way we bulldoze other people with our imperfections—the more likely I think our kids are to find Christianity attractive, and God truly made great in our homes.
Now. I’ve already admitted that I would be voted “most apologetic” in my family, and even was as a spoof in my graduating class. So understand the source.
Still—though I’m sure I’ve given my kids plenty of failures…or fodder for their future therapists (and dentists: “My mom took away my mouthwash!”)…I want my kids to have just as many memories of me saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”