Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday's Resolution {No Motions of Anger}

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We are picking apart Jonathan Edward's 70 Resolutions, one week and one resolution at a time. Don't forget to start where he did- "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake."

15. Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

My paraphrase:


15. Resolved, to never allow my anger to outflow into action against illogical creatures. 

Clearly, Jonathan Edwards wrote this resolution before having kids ;). I say this halfway in jest, because it really is an excellent resolution. But in all seriousness, what sleep-deprived, burnt out parent has not reacted in anger to their child at one time or another?

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 Acts (or motions) of anger reveal themselves in a variety of ways: an angry word, a normally appropriate means of discipline enforced with sinful anger, a raised voice, a harsh look.

Although Jonathan Edwards could be referring to a variety of irrational beings with this resolution (animals, fools, etc.), since I know that many of you are moms (and I am one too!), I thought that applying it to our young children might be particularly beneficial.

Not that our children will always be irrational beings, nor are they always irrational right now. I hope that they grow up to be very rational, and even toddlers have their moments of lucidity. All I am saying is that it is hard to have a rational or logical conversation with a two year old... especially when they are throwing a tantrum (and you might be most likely to "suffer some motion of anger").

I love my daughter, immensely and totally much. Ninety percent of the time I would say that I really, really enjoy her. We have fun playing and reading together.  I am delighted when I see her develop a new skill or say a new word (which at her age happens almost daily!). She is hands down and by far one of the best and most beautiful things that have ever happened to me.

But sometimes she pushes my buttons. Not intentionally (at least not yet!), but it happens. And if she catches me when I am exhausted, or not feeling well, or very distracted or busy or stressed, it can be a recipe for sinful disaster.

Example #1: Two a.m. hits and I'm startled out of a dead sleep by my screaming baby. We get up. I rock her. Try to feed her. Offer her a chilled teething toy. Walk and bounce. Five minutes later, I've tried everything, and she is still screaming. All I can think about is how exhausted I am, how tired my arms are from bouncing her, and how much her screams are grating on my nerves.

Have you ever had a mental breakdown at this point? I'm ashamed to admit that I have.

"Why don't you stop screaming??? I can't handle this! I am too tired!" The harsh words hit too high a volume. I give up for the moment, set her on the floor, and let her scream. Holding my head in my hands, I disintegrate into a puddle of self-pity and despair. What to do, what to do??

Example #2: You've told your toddler not to do something. They do it again, and you discipline them. Then they do it a third time. And a fourth time. And a fifth time. No matter how many times you tell them "no," follow through with the promised consequence, and distract them with a new toy or different scenery, they go back to exactly what they've been instructed not to.

Do you yell at them? Discipline them more harshly or angrily? Start acting like an irrational being yourself?

Parenting is hard. Daily it tests us to our very limits, pushing us to the brink of our self-control and sanity. We don't have all the answers. Our patience is far from infinite. We are very prone to suffering acts of anger against the little "irrational beings" that God has placed in our care. 

How's a God-fearing mama to conquer herself and live out this 15th Resolution?

I don't have all of the answers. But I do know the God who promises to give His perfect wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5). In difficult moments I've often caved and had an outburst, but at other moments He's given me great grace to remain patient and calm. My goal is to have more of those victorious moments!

Stop and take a deep breath. Before you react to an outrageous parenting moment, just pause. I know that immediate action is often necessary, and you can't just steal away to a quiet corner- trust me, I know! Mentally stop though, and check yourself. Breathe deeply. Remind yourself that your child is a sinner just like you, and that it is your job to lovingly and patiently guide and instruct her. Shoot up a prayer for wisdom and grace.

Act, don't react. Be rational ;), and take a rational step of action. Don't just react to unruliness, chances are you will be only adding to the unruliness!

Memorize Scriptures to help you in the fray of battle. Commit verses to memory that remind you to be patient, calm, and gentle. Meditate on them, post them in places around the house so that they are with you throughout your day. 

Ask your child's forgiveness when you fail. Despite making this 15th Resolution right along with Edwards, we are going to fail. Sin will get the best of us some days, and we will react angrily to our children. Don't just brush it under the rug. Confess your sin to the Lord, and ask His forgiveness. Then be sure to apologize to your child and ask for their forgiveness. You've sinned against them, and you need to restore the relationship back to health. They need to see you deal with your sin in a Biblical manner, it will be very instructive.

Remember, Scripture tells us to "be angry and sin not" (Psalm 4:4). There will be many moments in your life that bring out anger. What you do with it is the key- do you surrender it to the Lord and ask for His patience, wisdom, and grace? Or do you boil over and act out?

Let's continue along with Jonathan Edwards, and resolve to never suffer the least motion of anger to irrational beings.


Linked with: The Better Mom, and A Mama's Story.
 

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