By Heather Allen –
Today was a rough day. My response was irritation. I answered my children’s arguments in sharp staccatos. I expected them to be grateful and quiet. That did not happen, so I escaped to the backyard with my blanket and Bible. I mentally numbered their transgressions. When I searched for the right verse, to put things in perspective, I was deeply disappointed to find Proverbs 12:16. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult” Proverbs 12:16 (NIV).
Proverbs gave me no relief. Every page was a mirror, reflecting my sin. Pride was staring me down. Yet, the conviction was kind. Rather than a pointed finger and a list numbering my offenses, there was stillness. The birds gathered sticks, while ants scurried around my blanket. And I sat embraced in holy love, gently urged to let go of my desire to be right.
There is a destination I swiftly reach, when my feelings usurp the guard on my mouth. Like pedaling down a steep hill, careening toward mud and rocks. And before I know it I am thrown headlong. I lay at the bottom bruised, sad, and dirty. And to my dismay, find my children lying there with me. None of us better off.
But on those days when I practice loving conflict resolution, I know I am keeping in step with God’s Spirit. My words are chosen, my motive is encouragement, and my desire is closer to holy. Rather than discouraging my kids, I am able to humble myself and say I struggle too. How I instruct is directly linked to my faith walk. On stressful days when I am holding on with everything I’ve got, I might as well start the day with a piece of tape on my mouth. But a friend showed me a verse that is stronger than tape.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” Psalm 141:3 (NIV).
Parenting a teen has brought a new fervency to this prayer. My time with my daughter is dwindling. I am seeing her change into a woman, unsure when she grew tall enough to look me in the eyes. And when those eyes light with fire and her back stiffens, the way I correct either brings closeness or builds an obstacle course between us. So I count to ten, waiting for my pride to die down, remembering Jesus was willing to be least and last.
Then I whisper, “Please help me.”
My husband is really good at being humble. I watch his responses, a little dumb founded. He delivers grace and correction with perception and precision. It is obvious that his love for her drives his tongue.
Scripture says God’s kindness leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).
As I sat watching creation flow harmoniously, it was His love pressing me. If the God of creation, the perfect one, is able to lift a sinner’s chin, gently forgive, and dry her tears, can I? Can I choose to overflow with the same love and grace that I have been given? Can I keep my emotions in check and respond in loving self-control? I believe with His strength I can. And as those ants marching ‘round my blanket are diligent, I too will be diligent to build something better in my home.