Today was one of those days. One of my kids did not get adequate sleep so everything was an argument, an excuse, painful, or outright defiant. Why is it that when kids are tired and cranky that every tiny tap is a meltdown blood-curdling injury? I must have heard "owie-ouch-that hurt!!" ten trillion times (with only one legitimate injury). In an effort to move the evening along and get Said Cranky Kid in bed early, I served dinner at 4:11 PM. I decided that much earlier (i.e. in the 3 o'clock range) did not seem quite right - but it would have been 4:00pm on the dot but we had another injury tragedy, followed by four excuses for why he would not wash up, followed by tears, one series of spankings for disobedience, six very dramatic sighs, and one final "I'll sit, but I'm not gonna eat." It was a busy eleven minutes.
After picking at the addmittedly tasteless and dry chicken, complaining at every bite of carrot, and rolling the soft white bread-and-butter between the palms to make an edible snake, all three children were tossed gleefully into the bath.
I was at my wit's end, so tired of the antics. So-so-SO wanting the evening with this one child to come to a close, I debated how I would do bedtime. You know what I wanted to do: read him the shortest board book I could find, skip prayers, administer a quick kiss on the forehead, flip the light out and muster a semi-pleasant "sleep tight." But the Lord convicted me in the middle of that daydream. He pressed into my heart the reminder that love is muscle. Action. And that God's love is reflected when I respond in love regardless of how far to the end of the rope I am.
So after an unusually trying day, and with a verse in Hebrews rattling around in my noggin, "Let us consider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds," I grabbed three books of decent length and the hand of my Freshly Bathed Boy and we sat in the living room and read and cuddled. At the beginning of the reading session, I was filled with dread just wanting the child in bed. But by the time we were done, we had made eye contact several times and his eyes had been bright and smiling as he made his cute comments about this page and that, and I all but forgot the exasperating day.
Now, this is no fairy tale. There is no "and they lived happily ever after." This child, who had so sweetly cuddled with me moments before, got up from that chair and responded to my pleasant-toned "its time for bed" and proceeded to throw four tantrums on our 15-step walk to his bunk.
The truth is that on some days, parenting is just miserable and it feels as if nothing - or very little - is redeeming about the day. Walking in the spirit rather than in the flesh does not work magic. Our children, born of our very own sinful flesh, still choose at that moment if they will walk on the path of righteousness or sin.
But God in his mercy, gave us day and night. And we awake each morning to a new day, fresh with new challenges and new opportunities to choose to walk toward our children in love, or to allow sin (my sin or my child's) and the separation sin creates to grow a little more.
Today was rough. Tomorrow will probably be tough, too, because catching up on sleep takes a few days. But God, please fill my heart with Your patience, wisdom, and gentleness. Crowd my mind with Your Word. Help me to reflect Your love of my children in what I say and how I act.