I’m not one to say, “God told me this…” or “God told me that…,” but I feel hugely compelled to share this one more time. I hope it encourages you today.
Many, many times during the twelve years we have been parents, my husband and I have looked at each other, exhausted and frustrated and panicked, thinking to ourselves This is not what we signed up for. This is not what we imagined when we said, “Let’s have a baby!” Somewhere along the way, our precious bundle of joy struck a deal with an alien life form and decided to switch places.
This whole parenting thing? Not for wimps.
The first week of school is One Of Those Times. Disruption, exhaustion, new routine, new teacher, new friends – then throw in moving to a new house and a new school, and you end up with a perfect storm that will inevitably explode into some serious ugly. Especially when you are a nine year old middle child.
He was tired. (Who wouldn’t be after a full summer of sleeping in and playing, then having to wake up at 6:20 every morning and go to school all day?)
He was lonely and confused. (He started at a new school, whose building is completely different from his old school building, and he knows no one.)
And thanks to some misbehavior over the summer, the rug was still being pulled out from under him at home in the form of some tough new discipline strategies.
All of that put together? Ugly.
Screaming, yelling, name-calling, hitting, pushing, blatant defiance and disobedience. By Wednesday night, I was an exhausted, frazzled mess. I was done.
Not surprisingly, I had a really hard time sleeping that night. As I lay awake, an idea started to form in my mushy, fatigued little brain. A conversation. A plan. I truly believe God was speaking and telling me exactly what to say – because the end result was astonishing.
The next morning was off to a (sadly expected) rough start.
He gave us an ultimatum. “Give me what I want, or I’m not going to school.”
“Fine,” we said. “But you still have to get up and get dressed, because you will need to go into your principal’s office and explain why you’re not going to class today.”
He decided to go to school.
That afternoon, I picked up all the kids, brought them home, gave them a snack, then called him into my bedroom. I closed the door and sat on my bed, inviting him to join me.
“I want to tell you the story of you,” I began. Then, lovingly and respectfully, I recounted my tale. I told him how excited we were when we found out I was pregnant. And then, in specific but discreet detail, I described all that I experienced and endured because I love him so much.
Morning sickness. (“You know how yucky you feel when you throw up? I threw up every day for a month.”)
Discomfort. (“For four months, I had to sleep sitting up, otherwise you would get up under my ribs and I’d wake up feeling like my ribs were broken.”)
Labor. (“Can you remember the worst tummy ache you’ve ever had? I had that every 3 to 5 minutes for about nine hours…”)
Exhaustion. (“I had slept for about two hours, then we had to go to the hospital, and you weren’t born until the next afternoon…” and “Staying in the hospital isn’t restful. Someone is coming in every few hours to check on you, and when they weren’t checking on me, I had to feed you…”)
Nursing. (“You know how it feels when you fall on your bike and hit your private parts? Imagine someone squeezing you there really hard for twenty minutes straight, then throwing up all over you, and then coming back to do it again every two hours, around the clock, every day.”)
Exhaustion Part II. (“You’ve seen your 2 year old cousins this year. That’s how old your sister was when you were born. I had to take care of you and her, and Daddy was working a lot. None of our family lived close enough to help me. There were many days I couldn’t even take a shower.”)
Soccer. (“This is exactly how much money we spend every year for you to play soccer. We could take a really nice vacation with that money, but we don’t. This is exactly how much time we spend in the car every single week, just taking you to practices and games. We know God has gifted you to play soccer, and we love to watch you play, so we don’t mind doing this.”)
At the end of this extended, very detailed speech, I said, “I want you to look at me because this is important, and I want you to remember this. All of these things I told you about? This is why I deserve your respect, and why it makes me so sad and angry when you treat me badly and call me names and say that I don’t love you. I have endured so much for you, and I have sacrificed everything for you. I love you.”
He gazed at me with his huge, liquid brown eyes – the same eyes that captured me nine years ago when I held him as a wrinkled, bald, beautiful newborn – snuggled up next to me, gave me a hug, and said, “I’m sorry, Mom.”
With that, The Alien returned to his home planet, and my sweet, tenderhearted, obedient son returned.
Because of his behavior that previous week, my husband and I had already decided that he would not be allowed to go to soccer practice that week, nor would he play in the championship game on Saturday. In order to drive the lesson home, we told him that he would have to go to practice and explain to his coach why he would not be practicing or playing.
Normally, he would have thrown an enormous defiant fit over this and refused. But after our little chat, when I told him what he was going to have to do that afternoon, he considered, nodded, and said, “I think I can do that.”
And he did.
During the night of insomnia when God gave me the words to speak, I knew his heart would be stirred and his world rocked. He can’t stand to see anyone hurting or sad or sick. He’s the kid who will empty his piggy bank for the American Heart Association fundraiser at school or the special offering at church for the orphans in Vietnam. He’s the kid who won’t let me drive past a homeless person without rolling down the window and offering my spare change. He’s that kind of kid.
(Despite the wild Norwegian-Spanish flare that he comes by oh-so-honestly.)
I knew that illustrating the proof of my love and how much it cost would reach the part of his heart that he had closed off to us, and I hoped he would respond with tender humility and gratitude. I knew how much happier he would be when he returned to who he really is.
How much like our children we are. Disobedient. Defiant. Unkind. Disrespectful. And does not God similarly speak to the prodigal? I love you so much. Here’s what I did for you. This is how much I gave. I gave My life for you. I sacrificed everything because I love you so much. Please let Me love you. Please act in love and gentleness so you can experience the life I have planned for you.
And how much more peacefully and joyfully we live – with ourselves and with each other – when we simply accept His love for us. How much happier we are when we simply obey.
How abundantly we live when our own little aliens go back to their home planet.