I had a hard start to my day. My son, Zachariah, who is almost always happy and silly, was bursting into tears at every turn this morning. Was it because he was tired after waking up earlier than usual? Hungry? Sick? Unhappy that I wouldn’t let him stand on the dog? Frustrated that I wanted him to drink from his own cup instead of backwashing into mine?
What is clear is that he was facing some emotion or need that he could only express in tears. He doesn’t have enough words to tell me what he’s feeling and what he needs from me, so, he cried. He’s come so far in his short life, it’s easy for me to forget that it was a little less than 17 months ago that he was a newborn in the NICU, unable to breathe or eat without assistance. At that time, and for many months thereafter, his only means of expressing his needs was to cry. Now, as a toddler, he can play, walk, and feed himself. He even knows a few words which help him to communicate a little. However, he is forced to fall back on crying when he needs something but can't tell me what it is.
I wish that I could say that I consistently responded to his tears with loving compassion. Instead, my frustration grew as the morning went on. I was beginning to respond with harsh impatience. Finally, we sat down to lunch and I began to wonder why Zachariah had been so sad this morning. I had a simple, yet profound realization: Zachariah was not crying to annoy me; he was crying because he needed my help. He was having a hard day and wasn’t enjoying it any more than I was. He needed me to help him work through it. He was asking me for a good thing and I was responding with irritation.
That realization broke my heart.
Now, I’ve never intended for this site to be a “mommy blog.” I’m not telling you this story to give you a parenting insight. I know that all the tips and tricks in the world for being a “better mom” can never get to the root of this type of parenting problem. Behavior modification is not what I need. I need heart transformation. When I have a resentful attitude toward my son as he struggles, it’s because sin is present and has hardened my heart toward him. It’s the same in any situation where I react with annoyance or exasperation toward others. Sin is overflowing from my heart.
"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:43-45
When my words and actions spill over with frustration, it’s because I’ve allowed the diseased tree of anger to take root in my heart. I need to repent and ask God to dig it out and replace it with the tree of life that is rooted in Jesus. Then, my life will produce the good fruit of the righteousness granted to me through Christ. The Holy Spirit will work in my heart so that my words and actions will overflow with joy in the Lord instead of bitter selfishness.
As a child of God, I know that I can approach my Father with the assurance that he will hear and answer my prayer for sacntification. His heart toward his beloved children is never hard the way mine was toward my son this morning. When we come to him, asking for good things, he delights to hear us and give us what we ask (Luke 11:9-13). And when, like toddlers, our words fail us and we are unable to express what we need in prayer, the Holy Spirit within us conveys it for us. God is a good, soft-hearted father who hears us with joy, knows what we need, and delights to provide for us.