An exhausted friend confided in me the other day, saying, “I hate my kids.” I was shocked, knowing how much this individual loves those little ones. I didn’t know how to react. What do you say? Is there anything helpful to be said at all?
After much pondering and prayer, here is what I’ve got for those other Christian parents out there who may be feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting and wishing for their old lives back:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (v. 19-20)
After going through the sanctification process for a decent amount of time, many of us assume that we have mostly conquered our fleshly natures. However, this is naive and prideful. In reality, rooting these evils out of us truly is a lifelong process. And guess what? Children are one of the many tools that God uses to complete this work. These cute little sinners illuminate our flaws by unknowingly pushing us to the brink. They demand constant sacrifices from us and many times give us little good in return (like when they share wet Cheerios with you >_<). They demand more of our time to read them the same books and we are suddenly confronted with the remnants of our selfish ambitions. They refuse to stop climbing on our couches after discussing the dangers ad nauseam and an intense outburst of anger ensues. They ask uncomfortable probing questions about why we need to buy certain objects and we are confronted with the envious feelings that spurred the purchase.
Too real? I feel that uncomfortable feeling too. But it is a good thing. We need to go through this kind of discomfort (like the kind our kiddos drag us into) in order to continue being sanctified by God—a.k.a. pruned to bear more good fruit 🙂
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (v. 21-26)
Every time God prunes off another dead, sinful bud, we are better able to bear the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. For example, instead of allowing selfish ambition to rear its ugly head, we should instead submit to what God’s word tells us about living for Christ (not ourselves) and then joyfully/patiently/kindly/gently read our kiddos stories.
Does it sound overly simplistic or somewhat abstract? Let’s walk through a personal case study.
Whenever I start to feel a little resentment towards my husband and children, the indigent voice in my head always leads with pride and selfish ambition. It usually tells me that I am blameless and deserving of more personal time and recognition—because I have been too good to my family based on how they treat me. And if I refuse to acknowledge God’s law, I will be well on my way towards embracing the selfish zeitgeist and living for my flesh again. Fortunately, however, the Holy Spirit quickly convicts me of this terrible thinking and reminds me that I am only alive (physically and spiritually) due to God’s grace. What a reality check! I eventually yield to the Spirit (as recommended in verse 25) and allow the Lord to prune this evil bud in my heart. And as a result, I feel less inclined to give into these feelings the next time that they try to resurface.
Now remember, sanctification is a long process—think many iterative changes not one magic bullet. Be patient with yourself and be honest with others about the work that God is doing in you. It will take time. However, trust that “He [God] who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Just stay the course and allow the Holy Spirit (and the Bible) to renew your heart and mind. 🙂
What are your thoughts/reactions? Share your feedback in the comments section below!