Thursday, January 7, 2016

Developing Patience While Giving Up Control

Patience, yah, yah, yah. It's easy to become impatient most days. All is well until something isn't going your way. When it involves parenting, I am learning more and more, it's less about controlling your children and more about being patient with them.

When I was a younger parent, my understanding (and teaching I received) was that the point was to get your children to obey you. If you did X, enough times or forcefully enough, they would eventually know to obey. Of course, they would love and respect you all the more.

As I have grown as a person and a parent, I realize we control no one. My children are not robots, they are free thinkers and they are free to choose how they respond to me and anyone else. I have made it clear, there are consequences to every choice, good and bad.

Some days they make better choices and others...they don't. Just as I do and don't. What is a parent to do when a child is having an uncooperative day? It's funny that we call them uncooperative, they could very easily call us uncooperative. It's the truth, isn't? We are not doing what our child wants us to do, whatever that may be in their mind at the time. Who is really being uncooperative here?

We are the adults, we naturally have more life experience. Yes, my six year old must learn to read and that learning requires he read aloud to me for a minimum amount of time. When he does not want to follow my instructions, nothing I do can force him to. Sure, I can give a swat, reason with him, try to cajole or bribe him, raise my voice or any other number of methods to convince him that my way is the right way.

Maybe one of those attempts will work. Maybe they won't. Until they do though, it is still my responsibility to remain patient. See how that works?  He is another human being with his own will, thoughts, ideas and preferences. I can have perfectly logical and good reasons for him to do what I want. To himself, he may have his own set of reasons that make perfect sense to him, why he should have things his way.

We say, Lord, give me patience. Another responds: don't pray for patience, or you will be tested on it. Okay, that is just nonsense! One fruit of the Holy Spirit IS patience. Either you have it or you don't...or...

If we believe we have the Holy Spirit living within us we will produce proof, in the form of good fruit. Here's the thing though, fruit doesn't magically appear. It takes time to blossom, and grow. You may have fruit that is not in season or ripe yet. We can develop the fruit of the spirit over time!

It's a constant pruning and nurturing to develop good fruit. The more opportunities we have to exhibit patience, the more that virtue will grow within us. How freeing! Every time another person isn't doing what I want (if we're honest, that is what it always comes down to) I have the opportunity to practice patience. In that time of practicing, perhaps, I will change instead. Perhaps I will come to see a new or different perspective I did not see before. However, if I continue to demand MY way, whether this is in parenting, marriage, friendship, at work or ministry, I have quenched potential fruit, and possibly bruised a relationship or a relationship in the making.

As a parent (or any human being really) I must be willing to give up the attempt to control others. I must allow others the freedom to make mistakes, even big ones, and allow them to handle the consequences of those choices. If the choice made produces negative consequences, we then have the opportunity to extend grace and help those we care about navigate through the consequences. It's a wonderful beauty to be part of this process.

God never leaves us alone and I don't believe He expects us to instantly get everything right, every time. His love does not change for us because we have made the wrong choice. He gives us options and encourages us to make good choices but He never forces us. He reasons with us, through His Word, gives warnings and shows us through the many examples of those who have gone before us, possible outcomes of our choices. We are though, always free to make our own choice.

He shows the ultimate patience and grace with us, sometimes waiting our entire lives, for us to call out to Him for help. I can do the same with my child in any given moment or with others I love and care about. He has given us all we need, it is up to us to reach out and access it. It's up to nurture the good fruit within to produce right when it is needed.

A child or anyone else, who is not cooperating, doesn't need more force coming against them, what they need, is more patience, grace and love. To be honest, it's probably what I need in that very same moment as well. 

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