Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The One Thing We Need in the Face of Defeat

We’re reading around the breakfast table when defeat shows its face, before we even start our day. The youngest two can’t sit still, so I let them run off and play. They run circles, screaming past us and I can’t hear my own voice. I ask them to keep the volume down or play downstairs, as I finish our short devotion with the older two.
I ask a follow-up question to our reading and I hear grunts and whines and the older two are just as uninterested, so I just shut the book and send them downstairs to get dressed.

And I feel defeat wash over me at the start of our day of the new week.

I look around me and notice that we didn’t even clear our dishes or clean the kitchen before dispersing. We need to pull the house together before we start school–after a fun, long Easter weekend and house guests. And it’s always then–when there is just one more thing on our plate–that I'm faced with defeat that feels like despair, like we’re getting nowhere and like we’ll never get it right.

But that’s a lie. Because more good has come from redemptive moments than I can count. Even when all I can see is momentary defeat. And since giving up is not an option, I offer it back to the One who promises success when I commit these plans to Him.

Each moment is opportunity for a fresh start when we'll accept our own limitations and submit control to Christ.
So I breathe deep and head downstairs to see how they’re doing with getting dressed and ready for the day.

I have a talk with individual children and direct each one, keeping us on track. There’s more grumbling and whining over a certain morning chore and I want to throw a fit myself.

I feel how exhausting and unglamorous parenting really is.

Yet I choose not to take back the control I just offered up, nor grow weary in doing good.

“I always have to fold laundry. I’m not folding laundry!” the oldest one demands.

I feel more defeat over his reluctance, but he has a choice and so I ask him to start with the chore he is willing to do.

He’s folding blankets and throwing them over the couch and chair and I’m pitching in, picking up random toys off the floor.

“I’d mop the floor, mom,” the reluctant one says. "I just really don't want to fold laundry."

“Okay, you can mop instead of folding clothes and it needs to be swept first. The stairs could be vacuumed, too.” I concede.

“Okay,” he says. There is willingness now in his tone.

Soon the children are all working like a well-oiled machine. The house is coming together and I’m realizing, once again, that hope is not lost.

The day plays out peacefully, as the children play together, building a house, a trench and a dam on the dirt hill behind our house, after cleaning. They then come in for lunch, imaginations still active. One writes out the menu, takes orders, and delivers the food that I prepare. School work is accomplished in the afternoon this day and I can’t think of a better day we've had, even with our rough start.

And I realize that more rewarding than children cooperating all of the time, as I expect; more beautiful than first-time obedience and perfectection, is redemption in the lives of my children.

To watch reluctant hearts change. To watch them internally choose to do right. To witness what only Jesus can do in them that I cannot.

It’s the realization of who we are without Christ and who we become with him.

And when I see this happen in each of my children, as I have more over this past year, I recognize the blessing in the difficult moments.

I realize that the difficult moments help us to see our limitations and that we really do need Jesus to succeed and live joyfully. They see it, too.

And what I need more than anything in the face of defeat is the faith to simply trust God with this exhausting and unglamorous work.

Because, although the work of parenting is less than glamorous, the redemptive work is stunningly beautiful.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

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