Last night, my daughters were in the living room where my newborn son was sleeping in a bouncy seat on the floor. I went to the bathroom after explicitly saying, “Please be quiet around your brother.” I should have just taken the baby to the bathroom with me.
I heard laughter from the living room, and when I came out of the bathroom, my whole body tensed up. I saw the girls wrestling in the floor, giggling, and bumping against my sleeping son’s bouncy seat. I walked over, grabbed both of them by the arm, and pulled them up.
“What are you thinking?” I asked with my eyes flaming like Moses when he found the Hebrews worshipping the golden calf. The girls looked terrified and my oldest daughter started bawling, so I tried to ease up a bit, but the damage was done.
“Look girls,” I said, relaxing a little, “I’m sorry I was so gruff with you. I realize that was scary. At the same time, I’m disappointed that you disobeyed me. So I want you to apologize too.”
Both of the girls apologized, but my oldest daughter kept crying. This probably would’ve gone on a lot longer if it weren’t for the fact that my youngest randomly pretended to pass gas and got us laughing.
What We’re Really Like
In the sleep-deprived week since our newborn son came home, we’ve had plenty of hard moments, and they typically don’t end in laughter or pretend tooting. They sometimes end in sharp words, exasperation, and barely-repressed feelings of annoyance.
I’ve been disappointed in myself, quite frankly. As my daughters have gotten older and become more capable of taking care of themselves, I imagined that all my irritability during their toddler years was this sad phase I outgrew. Apparently not. While I’ve come a long way from where I was four years ago, I’ve still got work to do with them and my wife.
Famed basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” That sounds nice, but I think the true test of my character is who I am when the only people watching are my family members, and they need more from me than I have to give. Frequently, in these moments, I discover that I’m severely lacking.
I suppose I could put myself on a guilt trip and resent my own brokenness, but I think these moments are something to be celebrated. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), and I think He writes these unexpected plot twists into our lives to show us how far we’ve come and how much we still need Him to parent us into the sons and daughters He wants us to be.
While I’d rather not be so needy, Jesus didn’t go to the cross to save me from my need for Him — He saved me to bring me into total dependence on Him. And moments like this are great opportunities to hear Him more clearly as He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Thanks to my daughters for convincingly reenacting their wrestling match for the purposes of the featured photo. If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here. You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.