Life, with Sinners (Big and Small)

Lately, I find myself trying to encourage myself with the mantra of Psalm 127:3: “Children are a heritage of the Lord… the fruit of the womb is His reward.”  Blessing.  Heritage.  Reward.  Psalm 127 puts “children” right in the same line of blessings as sleep—and, oh, we know what a blessing sleep is!

But when we’re surrounded by toddlers, preschoolers, and infants… parenthood is exhausting.  Things happen during the day and sometimes there are no wise words that pop into my head.  This afternoon I watched two of the children get involved in an argument over a game (the loser unjustly accused the winner of having cheated), and there was something clever and helpful that I should have said, but the words just wouldn’t coalesce in my exhaustion-addled brain, so all that came out was, “work it out, y’all, talk to each other and work it out.”  And laid my head back on the couch, feeling every last bit like I’d just failed at one of the moments I had.  These moments we have as parents are numbered, and dwindling, and yet I couldn’t articulate how to seize that one.

Then, if the children aren’t sinning, I am.  Oh, how many sins are attractive to motherhood!  Over here in this corner of my heart, I have impatience.  Patience, see, is a great help to many situations in parenting, defusing many a situation in children’s hearts before they even have the chance to go far astray—and yet patience is both costly and counter-intuitive.  When someone has just done the exact opposite of what you told them to do, for the tenth time today, patience is evasive.  And why?  Because in this other corner of my wretched heart, I have selfishness.  And possibly anger, that they are forcing me to deal with this yet again, and—how dare they be so selfish?  (Clearly, they’re learning it from me!)  Then there are my other sins, the easier roads; there is laziness, of not dealing with something that needs dealt with, because I’m too tired (see how this all ties back into selfishness…), or not helping with something legitimate because I’m too wrapped up in my own affairs; there is inattentiveness, of not paying enough attention to their little hearts to even realize when wisdom is needed; and there is foolishness, of sometimes joining them in unprofitable activities and amusements because… it’s fun.  And they like it.  It makes them like me.

There are many sins to tempt mothers.

~ * ~

Eliphaz tells Job in Job 5:7 that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  And, while Eliphaz is an unfaithful friend, Job himself echoes his words in 14:1—man “is few of days and full of trouble,” he says.  Ecclesiastes 2:23-26 echoes this as well:

For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

In short, life is hard.  Life is broken.  Sin, the fall, our wretched state… everything has been tainted and now the work is endless, the work is full of trouble and strife.  This is our existence on this terrestrial plane.

And yet, did you catch that little glimmer of hope in Ecclesiastes?  “Apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”  Praise God, we are not “apart from Him”!

  • We can take joy in restless nights because we know sleep is a gift from God (Psalm 127:2) and that every minute of precious sleep we get is a blessing from his hand.
  • We can take joy in dealing with disobedient children because we know the fruit of righteousness is the yield of discipline (Hebrews 12:11).
  • We can rejoice in our sufferings because we know they produce endurance (Romans 5:3) and set off a chain reaction that leads all the way to eternal hope!
  • We can love God’s discipline of us because it shows us His love (Proverbs 3:12).
  • We can praise God that our own temptation to sin is not insurmountable—God promises a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).  It never goes beyond our limit, and that is a wonderful truth to rest in.
  • We can be thankful that while we struggle, God has yet given us a Spirit of love and self-control to war against our fleshly impulses (2 Timothy 1:7), and that His grace has brought us not only salvation, but also trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
  • We can run this hard race with joyful anticipation because we run for an imperishable wreath (1 Corinthians 9:25).

Do we live in the present world? Yes.  Are we dragged down and even tormented by it? For sure.  And yet.  We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  We have hope, we have HELP, we have promises of future sanctification, limits to our present temptations, blessings abounding, and rewards incoming.   While we groan just as creation groans for redemption (Romans 8:22), at the same time, just as creation praises God in the present (Psalm 66:4), we, too, find our rest, our joy, our satisfaction in Him.

Even in the midst of our daily struggles and our sleepless nights—we cling to His grace, and it is enough.

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