I never considered myself an angry person. I would even go as far to say that most people who know me wouldn’t describe me as angry, either. But every parent gets angry at their children sometimes, right? The other week, as I’m sitting down trying to wind down from work with a book, my daughter runs into the room pushing some toy in my face to show me… I don’t know… something. I lower her arm and try to brush her off with an “uh huh, coooool.” Well, of course she tunes into my dismissiveness and pushes the toy back in my face (because we all know I can’t see the toy unless it’s directly in my eye) and tries again to share with me the importance of whatever is proprietary about this particular toy. “Eloise, please get that out of my face. I see it, okay?” As I lower her arm again, she pulls away & again shoves the toy directly in my face, this time smacking me in the nose. Fury rages as I snatch the toy and throw it with all my might across the room. “I said, get that out of my face!” …Crap. I immediately close my eyes and mentally kick myself for my rash behavior but try to rationalize it because, well, she didn’t listen to me and it made me mad! But, when I open my eyes and see her little broken face, I realize, she didn’t make me mad, all she did was expose my heart.
Since becoming a mom, I have come face to face with my anger. I spent most of 2017 so far praying that God would restore my joy because I saw it being stolen from everything outside myself. My son kicking his legs while I wrestle to change his poopy diaper stole my joy and made me angry. My daughter using a Sharpie to add her artistic flair to our dining room table stole my joy and made me angry. My kids screaming and snatching toys from each other stole my joy and made me angry.
Then I came across this:
I covet & desire. Oh man, do I ever. I covet & desire that comfortable easy life and I lose my temper because I want it too much. The things I want (quiet, respectful, obedient kids) which are legitimate desires, have become my demands. I think it is my right to have these things so when my right is violated, I Hulk out and get angry, not because I care about my children, but because I wasn’t treated the way I think I’m entitled to be treated. In the storm of my anger, I feel righteously entitled to my fury. How can this kid be so disobedient, inconsiderate, ungrateful, or even mean? I have replaced my desire for the kingdom of God and His glory with the desire for my own kingdom and glory. Instead of guiding my children into obedience to God, I’ve plopped my big butt on His throne.
Thou shalt hold still whilst on the changing table and be fully cooperative for Queen Mother.
Thou shalt not color anywhere but on paper in Her Majesty’s dwelling place.
Thou shalt play quietly, sharing all your belongings, as to not disturb Her Highness.
Rather than seeing their behavior as foolishness that needed my gentle guidance and correction, I began to take personal offense to what they did. Not only is this way of thinking extremely selfish, it’s also senseless. I will never get all of the things I think I should have. People aren’t always going to treat me the way I think I deserve to be treated. So, the solution can’t be changing the other person or changing the circumstances, the solution has to be turning to God and reminding myself of His righteous anger & wrath that, though meant for me, was poured out on Jesus in my place. The solution is the gospel.
When I read the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18: 23-35, I am reminded of the enormous magnitude of God’s forgiveness and how any malfeasance towards me is puny in comparison.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold (approximately 6 billion dollars)was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins (approximately $20,000). He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The $20,000 dollars was not an insignificant amount of money but when compared to the debt that he was just forgiven, it becomes negligible. Just as, when we reflect on the extravagant grace that has been given to us through Christ, any offense against us seems so trivial. I believe we have to force ourselves NOT think of the gospel to maintain anger.
Here are a few things I’ve been practicing when I feel the rage start brewing in me:
- Ask myself, what desire have I turned into a demand? And then speak the opposite out loud to myself:
I am not entitled to a kid that doesn’t wiggle on the changing table.
I am not entitled to children that share.
And, this works in all areas of my life:
I am not entitled to a husband who takes his shoes off at the door.
I am not entitled to drive on roads with considerate drivers and no traffic.
I am not entitled to friends that don’t cancel plans last minute.
- Tell myself that I am not God, specifically I am not Judge. And remind myself that, like James 1:20 says, the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
- Reflect on how gracious God has been to me.6 billion dollars, Sarah.
- Remember that I am dead to sin and alive to Christ. Because of the gospel, I do not have to give into anger.
- Practice repentance. I am not going to nail this 100% of the time so if I know I’ve disciplined my child out of anger, not out of love & with gentleness, I will ask for my child’s forgiveness. This is so powerful, people! What a lesson for them to see that their parents can humble themselves and ask for their forgiveness. This models for them how to ask for forgiveness when they’ve done something wrong and brings healing to their little hearts.
So after I hurled that toy across my living room, I looked at my sweet daughter and said, “That wasn’t very nice of me, was it?”
“Are we supposed to throw toys?”
“You’re so right. I’m really sorry I wasn’t listening to you and I threw your toy. Will you forgive me?”
“Always, Mommy.” *this is the part where my heart shatters into gazillion pieces*
I am not the perfect mom. Being perfect doesn’t require Jesus. Being imperfect does. Through my imperfections, I hope that I can teach my children about Jesus by showing them how much we need Him. This Mommy needs Jesus just as much as my kids do.