The Small Heart of a Big Sinner

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My toddler’s defiance is not about me. This is some of the best parenting advice I have ever received.

20180817_063923It is so difficult to avoid viewing my son’s misbehavior as an attack against me. When a child rebels, it is natural for a parent to feel offended, hurt, angry–and dare I say, inconvenienced. However, a child does not rebel to hurt his parents, he rebels because of his sinful nature. When I remember my son’s misbehavior is a product of his human sinfulness, instead of a personal attack on me, it is so much easier to keep my cool and discipline him appropriately.

This was something I had to remind myself of repeatedly yesterday. My three-year-old woke up with one goal in mind: do not listen to a single word mom says for the entire day.

He succeeded.20180817_064021

At 39 weeks pregnant, I did not want to spend my day punishing, disciplining, detaining, and bargaining with my son, but this is what he needed from me. He needs me to mold his heart and his character into the heart and character of a man of God– a man who recognizes and repents of his sinfulness, and rests comfortably in the forgiveness of his Savior.

Teaching him to respect our home is the beginning of how we will teach him to respect others, himself, and someday, his wife.

Making him clean up his mess is the beginning of how we will teach him to correct bigger wrongs in his life, to own up to his more destructive mistakes.

Setting him in timeout while he thinks about what he has done will prepare his heart for when he must sit before the Lord and repent.

20180810_143041Parenting is not about me. My son did not draw on the wall yesterday to make me mad. He did not throw rocks at his brother to emphasize my bad parenting skills. He did not destroy his bedroom to give me even more to do.

My son is a sinner. He did these things because he is a victim of the evils in this world, just as I am. Christ died for for my son’s defiance and refusal to stop arguing with his parents, just as He died for my quick anger, harsh tongue, and love of the world.

For a little while, God has entrusted me with his small heart, and I will not let my selfishness get in the way of this profoundly important task.

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The Dreaded Mom Motto

Every mom experiences it: One minute she is living the high life as a cool, hip and happening, young mom, and the next minute, her own mother tumbles right out of her mouth.

Three years into motherhood, I wish I could say that this experience just happened to me, but alas, I have been sounding more and more like my mother with each passing day since Week 1 of motherhood.20180706_215053

I am not talking about those endearing qualities in my mom. I am referring to those mom cliches that I grew up hearing, and yet had no response to whatsoever because I heard the same cliches 67 times a week.

Allow me to demonstrate:

The other day my son was ignoring my 900th request for him to pick up his cars. Now, since I am raising two boys and zero girls, our car situation has become sort of dire in our living room. Of course I have a box, devoted entirely to vehicles of all kinds (Hotwheels, monster trucks, wood cars, dump trucks, tractors, pick-ups, jeeps, and on….and on… and on…). Despite my efforts to keep each one of these vehicles safely entrapped in the box, I still end up finding them in every nook and cranny of my home: behind the toilet, tied up in a curtain, shoved in the couch cushions, in a flower pot, and in my own bed. To date, keeping the vehicles organized is my most exhausting motherhood chore.

So, as I asked my son for the 901st time to pick up his cars, my mom came out:

“Young man, I am not going to ask you again. Pick up your cars.”

Oh my… did I actually just say, “I’m not going to ask you again”?

(This is not entirely pertinent to my story, but I did finally get my son–who suffers from a chronic case of selective hearing–to put all his wheelie things into the wheelie thing box).

20180704_205222I call them mom mottos: these fantastically frequent sayings that can be heard coming from any mother in any situation at any time. Most of them don’t really mean anything, and it doesn’t take our kids long to figure that out. If I pull out a mom motto, my children are guaranteed not to react.

My most used mom mottos include:

  1. “We’ll see.” As a kid, I wondered if my mom knew “we’ll see” is really not an answer to a question. Now as a mom, I know what it means. It means “no” but it is a soft “no” in an attempt to avoid an immediate tantrum. Much of the time, it works for my three-year-old, although I doubt it will have the same effect with my future teenagers.
  2. “If you keep crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” This must be the single emptiest threat a mom can dole out to her children. I am quite certain that even my 18-month old is confident I’m not going to wallop him in order to give him a reason to cry. It is impossible to follow through with this mom motto, and yet, I say it.
  3. “Because I said so.” I never understood this one as a child either, however, when my three-year-old will not stop asking the question “why”–even if the house were on fire he would continue to ask “why”–my only other option is to throw this mom motto out there, in desperate fashion.
  4. “We do not live in a barn.” When I found myself yelling this one out the garage door toward children who were already out of sight, it broke my heart. I cannot believe I actually say this. Even though I have heard this one from other moms, I am pretty certain my mom wrote it herself.
  5. “I am at my wit’s end.” As if my very small, very self-absorbed toddlers care where my wit is and how far away I am from getting to the end, I still attempt to earn myself the slightest bit of compassion by feeding them this line. Guess what? It never works. In fact, one time my toddler asked me, “Mom, what’s a wit?” That’s when I realized I may as well be trying to get compassion from my plants.

It’s unavoidable. Sooner or later, we all morph into a stereotype. And becoming a stereotypical parent means becoming those cliche throwing, don’t-make-me-come-back-there saying humans who raised you.

The Heart of a Sinner

In high school I had a friend with very low self-esteem. She always pointed out her accomplishments and waited to be complimented—your standard fisherman of compliments. Even as a teenager, I knew low self-esteem was her problem. I saw that she was broken, but still, I chose not to love her. When she would start drawing attention to her greatness, I would do just about everything but compliment her. I have never been able to embrace a boastful person. I would avoid eye contact with her, change the subject, pretend I didn’t hear—all because I did not think a person as arrogant as her deserved to be praised. The irony here, however, is that this friend of mine was not arrogant. She was anything but arrogant.

fishing-164977_1280Over ten years later, I am an adult—a wife, a mom, and a daughter of the King. However, boastfulness and arrogance still crawl under my skin more skillfully than any other sin. I can’t stand a boastful person. Being in the presence of one causes me to start locating the exits. I want nothing to do with arrogance.

Boastfulness is certainly a sin. God says in Matthew 6:1-2, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” Then in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Seeking validation from anyone but God means we care more for this world than for Him. However, our human nature causes us to crave praise from just about everyone. Some of us seek it more fervently than others, but we are all boastful—small, insecure beings who want someone to notice how fantastic we are. Even though God commands us to not be part of this world, the world’s praises is the very thing many of us desire the most.

Recently in a conversation with an overtly boastful person, God began to heal my own brokenness. As I visited with this person, trying so hard to love her and acknowledge her accomplishments (hating every minute of it), I began to realize that despite the sins and worldly desires of this woman, I, too, was in need of God’s grace. I sat there in judgment of this woman because of her sin, never considering that my inability to embrace her was my sin, equal to her boastfulness. As I judged and ridiculed the heart of a boaster, God revealed the sins of my own heart. Let me worry about her heart, Tara, you must take care of your own.sunrise-1756274_1920

By God’s grace, my next encounter with a self-conscious person who seeks my approval and praise, will be one where I exhibit the love of Christ. Because this person’s sins are not greater than my own, I will not condemn them nor despise them, but love them.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” ~Luke 11:28