It was really just one of many bad mornings, but for some reason that particular day pushed me further down the road to madness than normal. I couldn’t take it any more. I yelled at her, many times, and even ignored her tears as she finally laced up her shoes. (I had only asked her eight times to get her shoes and socks on. It was about time, really.)
As we finally got into the car and made our way toward school, she jabbered on about something inconsequential while I seethed in the driver’s seat; I was still so angry and it made me even angrier that she didn’t seem to care. All I could do was pray that God would settle my heart during the six-minute drive so that when it came time to pray with her before she went into school, I’d be able to do it without clenching my teeth.
“God, I don’t understand why it has to be this way every single day. Why can’t she just listen? Why does she ignore me? Why do I have to say the exact same things over and over and over before she does what I’m asking her to do? Why do we have to fight the same battle over and over? Why does she disrespect me? Why do I get so angry, and why does she not even care?”
As a writer, I think it’s part of my nature to look for the story in every situation. As a faith writer, I want to find the teachable story – the part of the story that reveals something of the heart of God or helps me and others to understand something of this earthly journey. So on that particular morning, I was searching the depths of my heart and the extend of my knowledge of God for something – anything – to make sense of my struggle.
“There has to be something I can take from this. What am I supposed to learn from this? Is there a parallel somewhere? Is there something here that I’m supposed to use to illustrate some deep, theological truth? What am I supposed to get from this, God?”
We were rounding the last curve in the road before the school zone when it hit me: maybe the point of this – maybe the point of all of my struggles – is to remind me that I CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. I can’t do this on my own strength, and when I try, it is disastrous. Anger and harsh words and unloving attitudes and slammed doors. I lose my temper and I lose her heart and I lose my bearings on this whole Christ-centered life. I can’t do this on my own because these are situations I’ve never faced before. I can’t do this on my own because I don’t know what’s going on in her heart. I can’t do this on my own because my fuse is too short and my expectations are too high. I can’t do this on my own because when I try, I get too angry too quickly and everything is catastrophic. In my hands, things fall apart. In His hands, everything comes together.
By the time I had that epiphany, its truth flashing as obviously as the yellow flashing school zone sign, it was time to pray with her and drop her off. I prayed out loud for her and for me and this season we’re in. I asked God to help her and to help me, and said my “amen” just as we pulled into the car line.
We were creeping forward, her gathering her things and unbuckling her seat belt as we approached the drop off point, when I heard words coming from my mouth that I had not planned. This time, though, they were words that needed to be spoken. This time, they were words of life.
“Honey, I need you to understand that even when I don’t love the way you’re acting, I always, always, always love YOU.”
She didn’t even look at me as she responded in a quiet voice, “Are you sure?”
My throat tight with waiting tears, I reassured her. Over and over, I reassured her, turning her little face toward mine and looking her in the eye as I told her that nothing she could ever, ever do would stop me from loving her. Her actions? I may not love those. But for her, there will never be anything but love.
She nodded, smiled a faint little smile, and leaned in for her daily kiss on the forehead before getting out of the car. I watched her walk into the building; all I could do was shake my head as the tears poured from my eyes.
“Jesus, thank you. Thank you for telling me to say that, and thank you for being here, and thank you for leading me. Please keep leading me. I’ll follow as long as you lead. Just keep leading. Please….please keep leading me.”