Report on last week: epic fail.
Generally, my head-on attack of my rather vicious anger problem, by God’s power and grace, has been an exciting success. I’m watching out for my more fire-breathing-prone times:
• my awe-inspiring capability to be late (yes again, so please find your other shoe under penalty of death)
• the insanity of the dinner hour (“NO! Tonight I am banning all Nerf weapons from the kitchen! Go vanquish somewhere else!”)
• right before or directly after bed, when the finish line of a full day is in sight (“No, you can’t go to the bathroom! What do you think this is? … Okay, yes, you can go to the bathroom.”)
• my days with a lot less sleep than what would have been healthy or helpful.
I’m attempting more margin in my schedule in order to minimize time that I feel compelled to flip out and yell. I’m keeping a few strategies in my back pocket for dinner. I’m sharing bedtime responsibilities with my husband. I’m carrying my own Nerf gun. (I wish. But no, I have not yet learned to drag myself to bed earlier, either.)
Even more so, as an update on my last anger post, I’m finding that controlling my voice has been a critical step. If I can control my voice (hats off to the Holy Spirit on that one), I feel like I can keep the entire situation from escalating and spiraling out of control. Rather than my emotion calling the shots, I’m able to keep a somewhat level head. I know Proverbs says that a gentle answer turns away wrath (15:1); I guess I didn’t anticipate that my own gentle answer would turn away my wrath. Interestingly enough, I think my kids actually take my anger more seriously when I’m quietly. Speaking. Very. Firmly. (As in, Uh, Dude. Think she’s serious. Better move.)
But I’ve still got an entire week that regularly kicks my tail in anger control on a monthly basis, if you get my drift. Exempting what I know about God’s power, sometimes I feel I might as well just write “EXPECT DEFEAT” in Vis-à-vis on my calendar. And what should I say to my kids? To my six-year-old or my two-year-old? “Honey, I want to tell you about a vicious little thing called hormones. That’s why you wonder for five-to-seven days what in the world happened to the nice version of your mommy.”
So I opted for two other words this morning: I’m sorry. I was convicted of seriously sinning against my kids. No, I’m not yelling as much. But I do get into Sergeant Mom mode. That whole Colossians 3:12 concept — “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” — no. Let’s just say that would not describe my home, which was less clothed with those things … more stark naked in those areas, actually. I’m pointing, eyebrows lifted, demanding; my ears would smoke if they could (they’re probably too afraid). I am not loving as God loves me. I am harsh. My desires have morphed into demands. They’ve become idols — taking the place of God in my life — and idols demand sacrifices, like my graciousness toward children. Grace has no place here in my swirl of hormone-infused laser vision of what I want from my kids. I do not want a toddler stomping on my fledgling tomato plants. I do not want to clean up after a bunch of little piggies, no matter how cute (enter the big, bad wolf). I do not want them speaking to each other in that tone — where did you learn to talk like that, after all?!
I could blame it on estrogen raging through my bloodstream to cloud my brain in a thick, irritable haze. But what are the hormones really doing, except subtracting a few layers of self-control as I’m squeezed, and letting out what’s really in my heart? Like Paul David Tripp says, how often am I actually angry about my kids pursuing something other than God’s kingdom? Isn’t it more often that I’m angry my kids are trampling on my “kingdom?”
So this morning, I had to take some time apologizing with specifics to each child, even the two-year-old, and ask for forgiveness. . As wise counsel in my life has instructed me – I need to regularly share with my kids that we are all in need of a Savior. God handed me a ripe opportunity to identify my own idols to my kids, rather than playing the blame game that’s as old as Adam. And the less I allow my idols to hide out, the less I allow them power over me — and the less likelihood I’ll be a repeat offender next month, swooping over the house with leathery wings so that everyone runs and hides. If I want to see less of a difference when I’m under pressure from my cycle or whatever, I’ve gotta accept that the heart of the hormone dragon is actually … mine. And it needs to be slain, so to speak, by the Prince of Peace.
May God give us each an entire month of joy and self-control.
Janel Breitenstein graduated summa cum laude from John Brown University and began her career with NavPress, where she worked on The Message Bible. After having four children she resumed her professional career (around her momlife) by serving as a writer for FamilyLife. In January of 2012 Janel and her husband, John, packed up their family of six and moved to Uganda to serve with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization that focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Join us as we all learn first hand, through Janel’s posts, what it’s like to go from suburban America, to answer God’s call in Africa!