It’s been a full 72 hours since I’ve screamed at anyone.
And to be perfectly fair, for 48 of those hours I was on a retreat without my family.
In any case, it feels really good.
About 6 hours into this getaway, I realized that there was this intense peace that had come over me. I sat there trying to figure out exactly where it was coming from. Sure, there were a lot of factors at play here. I was in a quiet room at a beautiful B&B with a bestie. We were surrounded by good food, good coffee, and sweet friends. Nobody was touching me! I didn’t have to cook or clean anything. I had a glass of my favorite wine in hand and was soaking in a clawfoot bathtub. So, yeah, it’s safe to say that life was pretty awesome for me on Friday night.
Still, I knew that this peace I was feeling was not circumstantial, but was coming instead from a place within me. Then I realized – I felt peaceful because I was ACTING peaceful. I hadn’t yelled all afternoon or evening. I hadn’t had a moment where my emotions got the better of me and I had boiled over in anger or crumbled in defeat. I had been calm – and as a result, my heart was calm. I could rest. I could listen for the voice of the Lord. I could find sustaining joy in small things. For the first time in many months, I could actually, really breathe.
I began reflecting on the godly women in the Bible in hopes of discovering the quality that I was lacking in my own every day life. At first it was a bit elusive, because they are each different from the others in their lifestyles and personalities. There are so many diverse and beautiful expressions of femininity affirmed in scripture! Some are used by God in their humility and meekness, others in their boldness. Some are used by hard work and others by quiet submission. Some are leaders in their community and others live simple lives. Some of the women we read about in scripture write poetry, while others hide spies in their midst. No two obedient women look the same, but they DO all have one thing in common. Christ-like women are STEADY. They are not governed by their emotions. They, unlike me, are not given to lashing out in rage. They, like Jesus, are abounding in compassion and long-suffering in their relationships.
The conviction that followed this realization was REAL, friends. It was devastating and freeing at the same time. And so I’m about to get real with you all in a very uncomfortable way. It’s been fairly easy for me in the past to share my sin struggles with you. When I fail in my marriage or in my personal walk with the Lord, I can own up to that with grace for myself and confidence that I will be met with understanding and kindness. Failing as a mom is a whole other thing. And I don’t want you to know this about me. I do not want to be vulnerable to the point of shame, or accountable to the point of change. But, the Holy Spirit is persistent and so here we are.
The honest truth is this: I am a screamer. And unless you spend a lot of time in my home, you’d probably not know that about me. Because I don’t yell at you. I only yell at them – the people I love the most. And I mostly yell at her, the one who understands the least and who has no power over my behavior.
I’m not sure why I do this, because it was not modeled for me growing up. My parents were level-headed and gentle. My mom was the embodiment of long-suffering with me. But for some reason my own patience tends to be very short, and very inconsistent. And so often, I resort to yelling at or in front of my daughter in my frustration.
And it isn’t really “for some reason,” is it? Because the reason is sin. And sin is inexcusable.
It is ugly. It is hurtful. It has consequences. It creates space for Satan in my home. SIN IS DANGEROUS.
It’s gotta go.
One day recently, while I was drowning in the guilt of this failure, I sought the Lord and he met me there. With mercy, certainly, but also and unexpectedly with a very tough truth. He showed me a glimpse of my own heart for making disciples, and how he delights in that part of me. And then he showed me how through all the years I have treated those around me with grace, especially those looking to me for guidance. And then he spoke clearly to my spirit when he said, “You would NEVER speak to someone you were mentoring the way that you speak to your own daughter.”
Because trapped beneath the weight of that truth, I had no defense. I have never lost my cool and started screaming at someone I was intentionally discipling. I would not speak shame or defeat or despair over them. I would not be unkind or impatient. I would not look upon their helplessness as an opportunity for my own self-gratification.
And yet with my precious, innocent child, I do not go through my days with her with that same level of intentionality. Instead of mindfully discipling her, I have entitled myself to give my emotions control. I have prioritized my FEELINGS over her heart. She is learning how to experience the world through my example. And on so many days, I am failing to show her how to experience it through Christ.
Because I’m tired. Because I’m bored. Because I’m angry at something my husband said. Because a story in the news upset me. Because she made a mistake or disobeyed me. Because my house is a mess. Because it’s raining or cold or my head hurts.
But NONE of these excuses hold up. There is no excuse for choosing sin instead of trusting God’s power and promise to overcome it on my behalf.
The Bible says these things in regards to living out our faith through our speech:
“For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” -Luke 6:45 (Berean Literal Translation)
*What comes out of my mouth is a direct representation of what’s in my heart.
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” -Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
*It is my responsibility to speak life over my child, and over every person I encounter. This is how we invite people into and edify the body of Christ. Foul and abusive language have no place in Christianity. They are never life-giving. They are NEVER called for.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” -James 1:19-26 (NIV)
*Reactive anger is destructive, and it is disobedient to the word of God. One who knows the word of God and so knowingly disobeys it is like a person who has forgotten that their identity is in Christ. They have forgotten that they are slaves to righteousness, rather than to the sin of their former self. When I live under the addiction of anger, I am finding my identity in sin.
That is a big deal! The effects of it are far-reaching and long term. “…and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” –James 1:15 (ESV)
SIN IS DANGEROUS.
My sin is dangerous for my daughter. It is teaching her to express her feelings in an unhealthy way, and it is modeling for her that emotions excuse bad choices. This affects the way she copes with things both internally and externally. It determines how she responds to me and how she treats others. And I see it, y’all! I see her lash out when she gets overwhelmed because I have not given her the proper skills to work through her anxiety and frustration. I see her struggle to read my mood because she’s always expecting me to overreact to something small. And I see her watching me, copying me, wanting to be just like me – and I have not given her a strong foundation. My sin is dangerous for her.
And my sin is dangerous for ME. It permeates EVERY aspect of my life and works its way into every crevice of my heart. It makes me feel defeated day after day after day, and I want to give up in my shame. I’m a good mom. But when I bow to my anger, it is easy for Satan to convince me that I’m not. And if I yell one time in the morning, I will continue to yell for the rest of the day. I use my anger much like an addict uses narcotics. One taste and I spiral into a binge from the throws of which I cannot untangle myself and I am too disoriented to call upon the Spirit of God for salvation. My sin is dangerous for me.
“Therefore do not let sin rein in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (ESV)
Praise be to the God who does not let me remain in bondage, but offers me grace upon grace as he fulfills his promises to finish every good work he began in me!
And even as I have failed my daughter in modeling Christ-like patience to her, I now have an opportunity to model Christ-honoring repentance to her.
I can talk to her about my sin when I fail. I will need to have many conversations in which I ask for her forgiveness and help to undo the damage that my anger has already done. We will need to learn new coping techniques together. I can let her witness me crying out to God for help. I can let her be part of my prayer times. I can be honest with her about the pain that results when we disobey God.
When our children can see us broken before the Lord, it puts the Lord in his proper place for them. When we are transparent about spiritual discipline, it gives them a new lens to view their own discipline. We can include them in big things. They will learn to revere God as they watch us respond to him in reverence.
Most of all, I can teach my daughter that God’s mercies are new every day. That because of Jesus, our righteousness is not dependent on our own actions, and that we can trust in the work of the cross to cover our sin and qualify us for adoption by God.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us to our iniquities…As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” -Psalms 103 (ESV)