In the past 12 hours we have endured two hurricane-level breakdowns with my 3.5 year old over something of major, life altering proportions . . . clothes. See, my daughter has a few things in her wardrobe that she likes to wear over and over again, no matter what season or time of day, few which fall into my category of appropriate attire. Since I am a genuine Southern Momma, God forbid that we leave the house in something that is not smocked, appliqued, nor monogrammed, not to mention the cardinal sin, my girls wearing mismatched outfits . . . just go ahead and take me to confession now! However, after my second baby came along, who can also be very demanding in her own way, I decided to pick the times to fight these clothes battles with my oldest. This particular late November week, we are visiting my parents in northern Virginia, so imagine COLD. Nonetheless, she wants to wear a sleeveless, airy, party dress that she wore to a Daddy-Daughter dance with her father in April of last year — SC April, not VA April!
Now some of you must be wondering, “So, what is the big deal”? Well, you who have met my oldest have, no doubt, readily picked up on the fact that she is quite “strong willed,” or as her teacher remarked, “a little bit bossy.” Let’s call it like it is, she is A LOT bossy — yeah, that’s more accurate. But more important than descriptors of her personality, is that my daughter thinks she is in control so she can talk to me, or my husband, or worse, her grandparents, as if she calls the shots, especially about what she is going to wear. And well, that is just not something we are going to allow — hence, the explosive meltdowns that ensue when we remind her that she is not in charge. In the past, I told myself that I would always reason with my children, that after explaining the logic of doing (or not doing), this or that, they would, of course, gratefully respond by saying, “Mom, you are so smart, and I see that you only have my best interest at heart, so I will do as you say.” Naturally, this is how I always responded to my parents — HA! I told you God has a sense of humor — yep, dealing with my oldest — pure payback! But today, after I tried in vain to convince her to change into something sensible (warm), I became furiously angry at her refusals to do so. I had planned a really fun day for us and was really looking forward to getting out of the house with her, so at first I went down the path of reasoning, like “It is too cold,” or “I don’t want you get to your party dress messed up,” but to no avail. Then, I snapped and just yelled at the top of my lungs, “BECAUSE I SAID SO, and that is the ONLY ANSWER I NEED TO GIVE YOU!”
As I went into another room to cool off, because, literally, my blood was pumping so hard I thought I might burst a blood vessel, I started thinking about all the times I questioned, pushed back, and was downright disobedient when I was a child. I had two strong Christian parents, who did not let me get away with much and met me at every turn with love, prayer, and a good share of spankings, and I thank them for that — now. But then, I resented them and tried to find reasons to leave the house because I did not want to be under their “Hitler-like rule,” which was a bit extreme in thought, but seemed perfectly rational to me at the time. Well, I grew up and thankfully, matured, and eventually apologized to them for pushing the limits. Their response was, “You were a child, Laura, and we knew it was not really a war against us, but against Satan, who wanted to win your heart and control your will.” They followed by adding that I would not truly understand this until I had children of my own, and yep, truer words have never been spoken!
So, on this day, I bowed my head and prayed, “Lord help me and help her to be obedient.” And suddenly I felt the Holy Spirit move me to a total sense of conviction — not on how I was dealing with my daughter, but how often I pushed against God, chose to have my own way and was disobedient to Him. Of course, there were many times in my youth, which I regret, but I was not a Believer then, so I have an “excuse” for my rebellion, but God said, “No, Laura, I am talking about today — NOW.” I recalled recent conversations with Godly, Christian women about how I was starting to question the futility of doing “right, Christ-like things,” actually wondering about “the point” in all of this. You see, in the past month I have made around ten casseroles to take to people for various reasons, but one particular day I sat at home stewing because I dropped off a dish to someone who made no effort to thank me in any way — no word, no card, nor text attempt! I was resentful and told my husband, “I am done with all of this, trying to help others; they don’t care that this is a sacrifice of our money and my time, not to mention that I also have to pack up the girls to travel across town,” and on and on. But wouldn’t you know, almost simultaneously, a friend sent me a thank you text for a necklace I sent to her that had a mustard seed in it to remind her to “have faith like a mustard seed.” Wow, thanks God, message received!
See, God wants me to know that HE called ME to action, that HE laid it on MY heart to “do” for people, although I may not ever receive the gratification that appreciation from others brings, at least not in this life. The Bible talks about this in Matthew 6:4, “so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” WHAT — IN SECRET?!? — But then, who will give me the kudos I deserve?!? I mean, I did not get up early, take two babies to Walmart, (Have you tried going to Walmart with two children under 3?), cook dinner during nap time when I could have been working for pay, and then drive over and hour round trip for NO ONE to give me a hearty pat on the back for all of my sacrifice! Oh, wait. . . yikes, there is that heart issue again! See, I really enjoy “doing” for people and love lending a helping hand taking meals or cleaning up because I find joy in feeling useful. However, I also want the affirmation, especially verbal and written, for these “good works” of mine. So, during this particularly hard week, as I was wrestling with continuing this form of “ministry,” a friend reminded me that my labor was not in vain, and while doing burpees (because when we find time, we workout together), she said, “I hate Satan as much as I hate burpees.” Satan constantly looks for ways to make us doubt and steal our joy by disobeying the Lord.
Like my 3.5 year old daughter who wants to do things her way, to be the one in control, so do I, and this results in my own type of breakdown when things backfire or just fall apart. My disobedience is more subtle than hers — HA, can you imagine me lying in the middle of the floor, kicking and screaming every time I feel God telling me to do something that goes against my nature, like taking on another responsibility at church or giving more money to a needy cause or helping someone I feel is undeserving — wouldn’t that be a site?!? My rebellion may not be as overt as hers, but it’s real, nonetheless, and let me tell ya somethin’ — I even make excuses for it! You know, like, “I have already done done my part; people aren’t appreciative, they don’t really need my help; someone else will do it.” Yep, I am trying to reason with my Heavenly Father, justifying my stubbornness, just like my daughter does with me.
The subject of obedience is throughout the Bible. Although the Old Testament is full of rules and laws, mercifully, God changed its severe legal code by fulfilling all those laws with His son’s death on the cross, thus giving us a better code to live by. In the New Testament, Christ is clear about the subject — basically, we must now obey God in a new way, a Spirit-led way rather than the former, legalistic way, which means loving the Lord with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves, to sum it up. Loving with a whole heart means, “doing exactly what the Lord commands, doing it happily,” like the words in the child’s song, “O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E.” This is a new type of command from God, to take care of each other, to love and to “do” when others need a little extra help (or a lot), or maybe just a simple gesture of thoughtfulness during good times. We do not know how our actions of obedience to God will affect a person’s life, but God knows, and more importantly, He knows how it will affect our lives. More than anything, I desire joy for my daughters, just as my Heavenly Father desires for me, but truthfully, I am learning that “There is NO other way to be happy in Jesus, but to TRUST and OBEY.”
To keep before me the verse Hebrews 10:24, “ And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” my husband I have started to encourage each other by holding up one finger, which is a sign to keep going so we “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” Galatians 6:9. It helps me to remember that when I go to heaven, I will answer to God ALONE for my actions, for what He told me, ALONE, to do. Also, Matthew 5:16 tells us to let our lights shine, so that our heavenly father is glorified by our good deeds. If our lives, our good deeds, light the way to eternal life for just ONE soul, then we have completed our mission, our reason for existing in the first place. And let me tell ya somethin’ — that is a HARD pill for me to swallow! Just ONE person — all this for ONE PERSON?!? Yes, it is about answering God’s calls without making excuses or “reasoning” with Him, about obeying in all things He commands because, ultimately . . . HE SAYS SO.