It’s official. I’m 5 years old.
I’m fussy. I’d like to stomp my feet. I could plop down on my bum and cry.
And I definitely don’t feel like sharing.
I feel like I’ve shared quite enough already.
I’ve long said…well, 5 years long…that it’s important not to make our children feel badly about spending time with their other parent. And for the better part of these 5 years I think I have succeeded.
But lately, I feel exceedingly irritated about sharing my children.
I think part of the problem is…well, actually there are a lot of parts to the problem.
One part is that I wanna be the fun parent. Sometimes I don’t want to be the chores, homework, budget, real life living stuff parent. It’s an age old divorce problem – invariably one of the parents is fun-parent.
But I wanna be a fun parent! (I think I’m digressing – I’m now 2)
And right now I just can’t pull it off. I’m praying and trying to figure it out. Honestly, up until just recently…very recently…I hadn’t even thought to ask God to help me find time to play with my kids. Unfortunately I’m the mom on the culdesac that sits on the curb with a textbook or the laptop…or that takes advantage of them playing outside to get something done inside…or who is sometimes just too tired to race around like I used to L. I don’t want to be the old tired busy mom…I wanna be fun mommy!
I love the way my children’s eyes light up when I actually stop what I’m doing and pay attention to them. When I get into their world and play. Lord, please help me find time to do that! Like today.
So back to my toddler issues…
Another part of the problem…you know what? There’s no reason for me to go on and on about all the parts of a problem. Because really it’s my choice to let things be a problem…let my emotions decide my reaction.
So how do I NOT do that? ‘Cause emotions are very tricky things. Very. And I have a LOT of them!
I have emotions, but I also have the Holy Spirit.
I know the Holy Spirit is stronger than all those emotions I feel. God has called me to love others…even the difficult ones…therefore I know I’m equipped and I suspect that the fruit of the Spirit is a big part of that.
So how do I apply this to my life…to my toddlerhood?
How about each fruit in turn…
Love Kinda feel like this is an obvious one. Love one another. Love your enemies…so I suppose that means I’m supposed to love my children’s father. The question is what does loving that man look like when I really don’t want to interact with him if possible?
As is so much of this life, it’s choosing to do the hard thing. Choosing to love when it seems like the obvious choice is to dislike immensely.
For me, it’s being willing to talk when I want to avoid. It’s being willing to smile when I want to glare. It’s being willing to overlook an offense…or many. To turn the other cheek. To speak kindly. To love like Jesus loves…without condition.
Joy is totally dependent on my relationship with the Lord. There is a direct correlation between my abiding in Christ and the fullness of my joy.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:9-11
This joy isn’t because my circumstances are great now, but because my circumstances will be great when I’m with Him. (John 16:22) This joy isn’t because life is easy, but because He carries me through this life. This joy isn’t because I’m happy, it’s because I’m loved.
Practically speaking, how much joy of the Lord am I displaying to my children or my ex if I can’t make the effort to be kind and smile at times? I need God’s strength to do this joy thing…to love when I don’t wanna. God says His joy is my strength. In Him I have the strength to live a godly life…a life marked by joy.
Joy looks like me focusing on Christ not my circumstances. It means being Christ-like in my attitude about sharing my children. It means that I smile and thank God for my children being able to visit with their dad regardless of how it makes me feel.
I can’t tell you how often I pray that God will give someone His peace which passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:6-7) There are so many life situations in which it seems like it would just be near impossible to feel any peace…but God gives peace regardless of situations, circumstances, and people.
He actually gives a formula for peace…two steps…thanksgiving and prayer.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7
I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to the beginning of that first sentence – The Lord is at hand. It’s that abiding thing! AND it’s a reminder that Jesus is coming back! How wonderful is that! We have peace because we can be thankful for Him in our lives, for the hope of our future inheritance, and for the many blessings He has faithfully provided.
Peace for me looks like this…”Lord, thank you so much that my children have a father, however imperfect he is. Lord, please give me the strength to live in such a way that you are glorified even in my relationship with him.”
Patience…I’d almost like to skip this one…
So in looking up verses on patience I found one that applies…ugh.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
Patiently enduring…I’m pretty sure that phrase says it all. I believe a big part of patiently enduring is also trusting that God will indeed work through this whole difficult situation.
Along with that phrase I see kind and gentle…those are Spirit fruit as well.
Kindness – The verse above in 2 Timothy says to be “kind to everyone”. Not just the people who we enjoy being kind to, but those who don’t necessarily deserve kindness from us.
The one thing I will say is that God doesn’t call us to suffer abuse from others…please don’t put yourself in an abusive position. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is stay away.
When I first thought of kindness I thought of Romans 12:18-20
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Might be the wrong motivation but heaping some burning coals sounds like fun…just kidding (sorta). Although the idea is that there is a possibility your kindness will bring them to repentance…God’s goal is always salvation.
And that should be ours as well…it is not ours to avenge or judge, but rather to allow God to use us.
Goodness – So seriously, this has been the neatest study for me. I keep seeing the connectedness of Scripture. If you read the next verse in Romans 12, it is,
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
God calls us to live an honorable life so that those who would speak against us will see the good we do and glorify God. (1 Peter 2:11-12). The goal of goodness is the gospel.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
This verse reminds me of love and kindness…they are offered to EVERYONE. There is just no getting around it. I guess we all have to pray about what that means for us and our ex-spouses. I think we can all come up with a way that we can do good without putting ourselves in painful situations. Maybe doing good just means holding our tongues. Maybe doing good means praying for that person. Maybe doing good means acting just as we would want our children to act toward a school chum who is less than stellar. Maybe doing good requires some thinking outside of the box…
Faithfulness – One of the things that has most profoundly impacted me is God’s faithfulness even when I’ve been anything but faithful. The struggles I’ve had have been real and difficult and I have fallen many more times than I thought possible. And everytime…everytime…God has faithfully picked me up again…and again…and again. He has offered me love over and over and over. Do you see the pattern? God doesn’t give up on us! I’m so thankful for that. And you know what, God hasn’t given up on my ex either. His choices haven’t excluded him from experiencing God’s grace.
As I ponder God’s faithfulness to me, I feel compassion for my ex and that makes me want to pray for him…for him for his sake and the sake of my children.
Gentleness – I found that most of the verses dealing with gentleness were about how we deal with people who are not walking with the Lord. Again, God’s goal is restoration. He set the example. Jesus was gentle and humble in heart.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
As I read that verse, I’m reminded that the burdens I carry, both the ones put on me by others and the ones I heap on myself, can be given to Him. I can let Him deal with this situation and I can trust that as I strive to be like Him, He will work in this for my good and His glory.
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
Self-Control – Yet another one I’d like to avoid…self-control is something I do not want to be tested on! I feel like daily I mess this one up! Especially if it is measured by the words that escape my lips.
The one thing that jumped out at me from the following verse in Titus was the word “training”. God’s grace is training us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…it is a process of faith and trust. It is the gospel. I desire to live this way…to be trained to live this way…because I’m so very thankful for what Jesus has done for me and what He continues to do for me. And my future hope is my motivation to hang on through the training.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14
I think self-control looks like me not acting as the world would see fit, but rather as God has called me to walk – in the fruit of the Spirit.
This blog was waaaaayyyy longer than I planned, but I hope it blesses you. I’ve been so thankful to go through these verses and see how God has worked them all together. And I’m going to continue to think through how to practically apply the fruit of the Spirit to all aspects of my life, but particularly my “toddlerish” attitude toward sharing. 🙂
So many meaningful points here that I need to remember and apply to my life. I must say that you had me at “heap burning coals on his head.” However, as you wrote, “God’s goal is always salvation.” Thank you for your thoughtful and personal reflection and insight.
Thank you for commenting – you made me laugh. I had you at the heaping coals :)! Those coals are mighty appealing!
I am going through a divorce and just finished your book. I can’t tell you how much God has spoken to me through your story. Your words here could have been written to and about me! I don’t personally know any Christian mothers who have gone through a divorce, so you have become a role model for me as I struggle to get my emotions in line with how I know (in my head, if not in my heart) God wants me to behave towards my ex. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad I found your blog and can go back through the years of posts and benefit from your journey.
Thank you so much for writing…you blessed me today! I’m so very sorry that you are going through a divorce…it’s so hard – hard doesn’t seem to adequately describe it. I’m thankful that God is using my story to encourage you. I will be praying for you sweet sister.
I am always inspired by your write up and usually look forward to it.
May God keep us all in His overwhelming grace.