Friday, March 22, 2013

When the Tree Doesn't Fall Far from the Apple

Exhausted and exasperated I collapsed on the couch.  Looking over at my bride we just stared at each other in disbelief, hoping for some sense of solace from each other.  Why was this happening?  How were we failing?  In adjoining rooms we could hear them.  Small feet on hardwood floors, the occasional giggle, a voiced exclamation - all sounds that drove our blood pressure higher and higher.  These were the clamor of  willful and stubborn disobedience, the sounds of a war that had been waging for days.  The children were supposed to be in bed, having been punished by an early retirement for a day's worth of misbehavior and fighting.  A fog of rebellion had enveloped not one or two of them, but all four of my youngest and now all four were purposefully in full mutiny in complete denial of consequences and lacking remorse for actions.

Had it been only one child, I would have rationalized the behavioral choices on time, events and environment.  Depending on the child, I would have even delved into parental psychoanalysis of past trauma and abuse and its after-effects once removed.  Had it been two children, I would have surmised personality conflict, possibly one child feeding off of the other's behaviors.  But to have four small individuals simultaneously insubordinate, defying parental directives, seemingly looking for ways in which to do the exact opposite of every instruction given to them for days on end; this war of wills was draining my bride and I of all energy and joy.  Nineteenth century boarding schools began to look more favorable as we longed for even one day of serenity and bliss away from the maelstrom of misbehavior.  Blessed with an eleven-year old of developing culinary skills, it is a sad indictment when this child says "Mom, I can tell by the look on your face you need brownies!" and he proceeds to bake a pan of calorie laden warm soft goodness. 

For reasons I cannot explain, I seem to have zeroed in on one of my children as his actions evoke the most frustration, the greatest hair pulling, and the absolute highest lack of consistent logic.  He is the youngest and his behaviors are not born out of ignorance because he knows exactly what right and wrong are, knows what good rewards and bad consequences await and for reasons unexplained simply does not care.  "Nap time" translates "Dance party in my room".  "Time out chair" equates to "I'll go see what my sister is doing in the other room?".  "No talking at bedtime" means "Let's all sing!"  "Go back to bed" at 5:30 am computes "What a great time to play dolls in my sister's room!"  Even "use toilet paper after certain bathroom functions" can be interpreted at will and if at all, said paper usually ends up in the trash canister despite continual reminders and verbal chastisements.

Every one of these children has garnered our absolute devotion and affection.  To each of these we are committed parents and love them more than they will ever know.  But in honesty, there are days when we are outnumbered and we have trouble with this math.  How can four little bodies "out-will" two determined loving parents especially when I am certain they could never work well enough together to make it a combined team effort?  It's hard enough to get them to share the Wii remotes.  Sometimes it feels like a variant home-version of Survivor and my bride and I would love nothing more than to be voted off the island.  How could each child repetitively disobey, repetitively choose an incorrect course of action expecting somehow to dodge consequences, and repetitively expect me to look down into their eyes as if they were the greatest thing alive?  After being sent to bed early for the third night in a row, my daughter looks at me expectantly and sweetly says "hugs and kisses?"  What keeps them coming back to me for love and affirmation after repeated offense?

In thinking on my youngest, I recently caught a glimpse of myself in him.  How often do I stumble before my Father, choosing my ways over His commands?  How often do I perform this action repeatedly and on how many issues?  What areas of my life have I failed to obediently submit and which areas am I continually and willfully holding onto my will.  I know His Word, I've witnessed His goodness.  I've even benefited from His love and blessings yet there are still choices I make that are contrary to His will, contrary to His desires.  And like the small ones in my home, I always come back expecting. 

But unlike the small ones in my home, we have a Father whose love is flawless in its perfection and without limit.  Our Father does not grow frustrated by our misdeeds or missteps.  In fact, our actions don't puzzle Him at all for He knows us intimately, knows what makes us tick, knows our weaknesses and our strengths, knows every flaw.  He never throws His hands up in exasperation, no matter how we choose to live this life.  Rather, His arms are always open to receive us, to guide us back to a path of life and promise.  

He's not a God of second chances.  He's a God of "millionth" chances and I continue to test that number.  None of us, no matter how badly we misstep, behave, or sin, can outperform or overshadow the overwhelming victory that was achieved once for all at the cross.  If we could, Jesus wouldn't be who he claimed to be and none of this would matter anyway.  But thankfully He rose again, making it possible for us to come to our Father at will, something He deeply longs for.

When next we look at our children or the children of others as they misbehave, or encounter challenges, let's remember that we, too, are all children regularly making our own missteps.  But we have a perfect Father modeling the perfect response to those mistakes and choices. 

If we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just true to His own nature and promises and will forgive our sins, dismiss our lawlessness, and continuously cleanse us from all unrighteousness, everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action.
I John 1:9 AMP

For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—
Zechariah 2:8 NIV

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