Thursday, November 3, 2016

Problem Child

My family —my father, my mother, my sisters, my niece, and my nephew—, my husband, our son Ian, and I were eating dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill on a Saturday. We were enjoying ourselves, talking, laughing, playing hangman... many things were going on at the same time. Our son, Ian, was getting desperate. The food had not arrived yet, and the more he waited for his french fries the more 'difficult' he was. I was starting to get mad, my husband was annoyed at his behavior and Ian couldn't care less. All of a sudden, trying to reach for a crayon, Ian knocked over a glass of water. A mixture of anger and embarrassment passed through my husband and me and Ian got the brunt of all of it.

Because, how could he let this happen? Can't he stay calm for a few minutes? Can't he watch what he's doing? Why does he has to be so restless? Why are other children sitting calmly and he can't do the same? And all the, "Excuse me, can we get more napkins?" began, followed by angry looks towards our son who sobbed and cried his way through the whole ordeal. The rest of the night went better; we enjoyed ourselves and went home.

The next day, Sunday, we went to church. Sitting in our comfortable chairs, side by side, the three of us were listening to the pastor preach when the pastor's words suddenly crashed down to my heart as the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin and I looked at my son and felt so ashamed thinking back to the night before. What was the pastor saying? Well, as if he had been there last night, he talked directly to parents asking us why was it that when our children dropped something or knocked over a glass of water we made such a big deal. He said, "You don't react the same way when an adult does it. Think about it: an adult knocks over a glass of whatever, and we instantly help them saying 'oh, don't worry. It's nothing' Why can't we do the same thing with our children?" Yes, exactly! Why can't we be as patient, understanding, gracious, and loving towards our children in these situations.

I felt so bad. I was so sad because I know how it feels to drop things or knock things over or make a mistake in front of people. It's embarrassing! And to have someone call your attention, harshly, in front of every one makes it even worse! I remembered 1 Corinthians 13 where it says "Love is patient and kind; [...] it is not [...] rude. [...] it is not irritable [...]" (vv. 4-6) and I prayed to God for forgiveness and I asked Him to help me follow Jesus' example of love, and grace, of mercy, and understanding. I thank God that Jesus was obedient in everything, that He covered everything that I cannot and that in Him I am made new and I can grow in His likeness.

I asked God to help me be gracious towards my son, to help me treat him as I want to be treated, to "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear my son and others] in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3) I know it's not easy, more so because I have to learn to reign in my reactions so that they reflect God's character. And the only way to do that is through studying and living the Word of God diligently. I began that day. I asked Ian to forgive me. And I started working on not seeing him as a problematic child, on not seeing his mistakes or sins as inconveniences or problems. I started seeing them as opportunities for him (and for me as well) to grow.

Then came the day of truth. Ian was eating at my mother's house, and he moved and knocked over a plate full of food. And I saw his face, his eyes welling up with tears and I could see he was worried and, worst of all, afraid of what I might do. And it broke my heart. Knowing that my son was expecting the worst of me broke my heart. But I remembered that sermon, those wise words, God's Word, and calling to love, to be patient and I went over to him. As he started pleading with me, I started cleaning up the mess and I looked at him and said, "Hey, it's ok. It happens to all of us."

And I could almost see the weight on my son's shoulders lift up. He was relieved.

Love is kind, love is not rude.