The screams of anger and defiance pierced the joyous reception happening in the church house where my husband pastors. No amount of reasoning, threats of spanking, or bribing calmed the situation. There were looks of awe and horror from those witnessing my 3 year old child thrashing around in my arms, screaming, and throwing the biggest fit I have ever seen any child throw...and then it happened.
I officially became THAT parent. I became the parent that can't control her own children.
As I made the quickest exit I could with my unruly daughter I prayed no one would be in the parking lot. I struggled to strap her in the carseat as she struggled to be free from me. I climbed in the front seat and hung my head in shame, in exhaustion, in absolute frustration.
This was the fourth day we had been dealing with this new found attitude and defiance. The fourth day of trying new ways to "fix" the problem. We tried talks about bad choices, rewards for good behavior, spankings, time outs, taking away beloved toys. We tried it all! I didn't know what to do, or how to parent her, I didn't recognize my own daughter.
Her fit only escalated in the car and I got angry. I yelled. I spoke of the punishment that she would endure when daddy got to the car. She just continued to scream and kick and scream some more, and then, exhausted, I gave up.
Defeated, I gave up trying and finally began praying for the situation. I prayed as she continued to scream, and kick, and spew her anger at me. As I finished my silent plea for help, I believe, in that moment, God gave me a glimpse of her through His eyes. In that moment, I saw my daughter struggling. I saw my little girl struggling with sin that so easily entangles and it broke my heart. I was no longer angry at how her fit was affecting me, I was grieved at its affects on her. I was grieved my baby was enslaved to sin and it reminded me of how we all are desperately in need of a savior, whether we are 3 or 33.
I quietly and calmly began telling her how much I love her and how God formed her in my tummy and gave her to our family. I talked to her about the first time I held her in my arms at the hospital and how she is a blessing to our family. As I shared with her, she began to calm down, the anger and frustration seemed to melt away. She stopped screaming, and she just listened. She asked me to tell her more and so I did. We laughed at how she used to call balloons "yappy dooeys" and we discussed how much her brother adores her and how he is her best friend. I told her how special she is to God and this family. We talked about how everything she does not only affects her, but also our entire family. We talked about the sin (bad choices) in our lives that displeases God and hurts those around us.
The tears began to fall from her eyes and through her sweet little sobs she told me she was sorry. She said her brain wants her to do bad things but she wants to do sweet things. I looked into her big blue eyes and told her I understand. I told her that I struggle with sin too and then I told her I forgave her. We talked about how we need Jesus to help us. I asked her if I could pray for her. She said yes through her tears and bowed her head. I prayed a prayer of thanks to God for loving us even though we don't deserve it, I prayed God would forgive us for our sin and help us make good choices that please Him.
After we prayed her daddy got to the car quite surprised to see a joyful mommy and repentant daughter. He and I discussed her punishment with her and how there are consequences for sin. She remained calm, took her firm punishment well, and then we left the church together telling stories and laughing.
OUTWARD OR INWARD CHANGE
I could have easily missed this precious moment with my daughter to show her grace, to point her to Christ. Like many times before I simply disciplined for an outward change in behavior, not an inward heart change. I was so concerned about how her attitude and disobedience affected me and those around me, that I failed to truly see its affects on her.
As I reflect on the events of this day I believe I need to stop being surprised when my children sin, they ARE sinners. They need Jesus. They need their mama to seek the Lord in prayer when disciplining them. They need me to speak to them firmly but with grace and in love.
Is it hard? Absolutely!
My flesh wants to discipline much differently than the Spirit within me wants me to.
My flesh is concerned with people's opinions of me as a parent but the Spirit reminds me that
"If I am still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:10
My flesh is concerned with raising little Pharisees that act good in public but the Spirit reminds me
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7
My flesh is concerned with using tactics like yelling and guilt to get my point across but the Spirit reminds me that
"His kindness leads us to repentance." - Romans 2:4
One thing is certain: I need the grace of God! I need the grace of God to allow me to see my children through His eyes, to discipline in love with a desire to see a heart change, and to show them the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ.
"Jesus or no Jesus we just want them to obey, be polite, not curse or look at pornography, get good jobs, marry a nice person, and not get caught up in the really bad stuff. It may come as a surprise to you, but God wants much more for your children…and you should too. God wants them to get the gospel. And this means that we’re responsible to teach them about the drastic, uncontrollable nature of amazing grace." -Tullian Tchividjian
Jessica Williams is the co-founder of Gospel Family Ministries, allowing her to use her gifts and passions to creatively point families to the beauty of God's glory.
Homeschooling her children, Jessica is blessed to spend her days teaching the Gospel inside and outside her home.