A constant flow of correction would come from me that had nothing to do with actual bad behavior or sin on his part.
I equated being a good mother with superficial things like outward immediate obedience. Good mothers had children who came when they were called, never interrupted or asked for anything twice when already told “no,” and never ran around like wild animals.
When Judah was in the kindergarten class at our church, I volunteered to teach in the Sunday school. There was one particular boy who was homeschooled. His parents obviously spent a lot of time teaching him. He was like a pint-sized theologian who had some sort of talent for knowing every Bible story in-depth. He always had the memory verse to recite. He raised his hand at every question. He followed orders and lined up when I told him to. He said, “Yes, Mrs. Hagenbach,” when he was asked to do something. He called people sir and ma’am. He always said, “Please and thank you.” He irked me. Granted he was five and surely his parents were somewhat to blame for his impeccable manners but still.
You might think it strange that I was bothered by such a display of obedience but the truth is, he was self-righteous, even at five. Outwardly, I could find no obvious fault. But he smirked when someone else got the answer wrong or stumbled over a verse only to shoot up his hand to remedy the error. He elaborated on the Bible stories with fact after fact but didn’t get along with the other kids. He admonished the other kids in class if they spoke of a tv show they had seen or video games they had played. He told everyone that his parents didn’t believe in tv, or sugar, or public school. Constantly implying that you were somehow less righteous if you did watch cartoons, eat ice cream or were not home schooled. His parents were raising a pharisee.
I often think of that boy when I decide which battles to fight. When I am worn out from disciplining my kids and things come out of my mouth like, ” don’t wipe your booger on your brother, that’s not funny,” or, “stop peeing in the yard!” I have to ask myself have I been picking too many battles. Is it a heart issue? Is it dangerous to them? Are they sinning? Am I simply disciplining because I am annoyed by them?
Is this the cleaning of the inside or the outside of the cup? If I only concentrate on cleaning the outside, then my children will be fabulously behaved for now. They will give me pride and not embarrass me in public but their hearts will probably be full of hypocrisy.
If I clean the inside, I will have fewer battles. I’ll save my energy for the bigger heart issues and sins, and yes, my children will sometimes embarrass me. But not because they’re unloving, judgmental, or cruel. They often embarrass me because they have been known to run around like wild animals, or interrupt occasionally, or to copy my sense of humor, which should not be repeated in public, lest someone think our whole family a bit off.
I stop to ask myself, why is this worth dealing with? If it’s pride [what will this look like to someone] I try to extend grace.
I find I enjoy them so much more when I am allowing them the grace to be themselves in all of their own glorious awkward individuality and picking my battles only over the things that fit in the cup.