Based on the roar coming up from the downstairs bedroom, someone had to be dying. Except that I was pretty sure people die more quietly than that. Someone was being torn limb from limb or was being eaten by a wild beast.
Or, one of my twins had a toy the other twin wanted. Sure enough, a peek downstairs revealed Paul flailing on the floor while Micah played nearby, contentedly pushing a “weally, weally cool” Matchbox car, oblivious to his brother’s agony.
“MI-CAHhhhHHhhhhHHHHhhhhh!” Paul wailed. “I WANT THAT CAR!”
“Hum,” Micah said.
Great. Here we go, I thought. We have a million Matchbox cars and they have to fight over the same one?
Paul gritted his teeth, making the little dimple under his eye stand out. “Arrrrrrrrrrgh!” he said through clenched jaw. His frustration was palpable, probably because he was biting his tongue.
Micah looked at the prized car in his hand. “Hum,” he said again. Then, he shrugged his shoulders and handed the car to Paul. What. Just. Happened?
“Micah!” I said, stunned. Even Paul looked stunned. “Micah, you shared!” Micah grinned sheepishly.
I had practically given up on the fact that those boys would ever share anything but flu germs. It seems to me that I spend an unthinkable amount of time breaking up arguments and reminding them how not to act like savages.
Then God gave me that moment. It stood out in the middle of our mess like a giant orange construction sign that read “God at Work.”
God was at work in my children! Who would’ve thought. Sometimes, I think the construction project has stalled out and we’re not making any progress. Haven’t we been over the sharing thing a bazillion times? And why do you still pick your nose? Can’t we be done with that nasty habit already?
There are days when I feel a little bit like an Israelite, wandering around in the same sand pit year after year after year. For forty years, Israel didn’t seem to be getting anywhere either. They weren’t, as a matter of fact. And even though God provided for all their needs in the most astonishing ways, they didn’t really notice. Most of the time, they just grumbled and complained about all the things that weren’t going right.
But God was at work that entire time. When they finally reached the Promised Land, a big, nasty river stood in their way. So God parted the waters of the Jordan just like He had parted the waters of the Red Sea, and Israel walked over on dry ground.
I bet the Israelites noticed that. They had seen that before, far away in Egypt when God redeemed them out of slavery. It was like a great exclamation point on the end of forty years of discouragement. He had been working all along. He had been faithful all along.
Before they could even go about collecting some of that much longed-for milk and honey and enjoy the fruit of the promise, God told them to get back into the mud of that riverbed and dig up 12 stones. Why? Because God wanted them to set up the stones as a reminder. He wanted them to remember not how relieved they were when they finally got there, but how the mighty hand of God had been at work the entire time.
There will be times with your children when it seems like you’re wandering around in circles. But God is at work. The problem is that we tend to focus on what our kids do wrong rather than what God is doing right. We get discouraged because they are so far from where they need to be. We forget to notice how far they’ve come.
When Jonathan was little, he had an issue with lying. Everything that child said was a lie, even if the lie didn’t benefit him at all. If you asked him, “Jonathan, is your name Jonathan?” he would answer “No.” It was that bad.
My husband and I worked and worked and worked with him on it for years. Years. We couldn’t understand why he did it, and we couldn’t get him to stop. Every time Jonathan told a lie, I felt like I had just taken another lap around the desert. Here we are again, fighting the same old losing battle.
Then one day, Jonathan told me the truth. But I didn’t notice it that day. He told me the truth again, and I still didn’t notice. Finally, one day, Jonathan looked at me and said, “Mom! I’m telling you the truth!”
Sure enough, he was. I hadn’t noticed because it was gone, out of my sight. God had taken it away, and I had already moved on to some other habit to break him of.
“Jonathan,” I said, “do you know what this means?”
He shook his head.
“This means God has been working in your heart!”
His eyes got big, and mine got teary.
“That is a good thing! He has been working in your heart to help you not to lie. Isn’t that awesome?”
God was at work. Behind the scenes, where I didn’t always notice, God was doing what God does: changing hearts, convicting of sin, drawing my children near to Himself and bestowing grace upon them as members of His covenant family. That is a work I cannot do, and when I see it happening, I need to grab onto it like a big old rock and set it up in my mind so I don’t forget, so I am not like Israel, grumbling under the blessings.
If you want to enjoy your children more, notice the good that God is doing. Rejoice when you see the hand of God in the lives of your children. Dig up some stones, even if you have to look long and hard for them, so you are always reminding yourself of the good. Even when you can’t see it, the truth remains: God is at work.
Please join us on Monday for Day 13: Affirmation. This post goes hand-in-hand with today’s post, so don’t miss it!
For further thought:
1) Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” What happens when you take that Scripture to heart and put it into practice in your parenting?
2) Make a list of all the ways you’ve seen God work in your family in the past week. Name each child and give specific instances of how God has been faithful to work in his or her heart. Remind yourself of it throughout the day.
3) Read the account of Israel crossing the Jordan in Joshua 3:5-4:24. Why did God tell them to go back into the river and pick up 12 stones? What were the stones supposed to remind them of?