Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV
It was 11:30 at night, and I was deeply asleep. All of a sudden I heard, like a tickle I couldn’t ignore, “Mama? Mama?”
It was quiet and harmless at first, but slowly a little voice calling my name pulled me from my cozy slumber, out of my bed, and down the hallway toward the boy’s room.
The source of the tickle was Samuel, laying sideways in his bottom bunk with one leg propped up on the bunk bed ladder, lounging as if he were sitting next to a pool instead of systematically waking his family up in the middle of the night.
Let me just say: I was already perturbed.
“Samuel, ” I whispered, desperately not wanting to wake his older brother up, “What’s wrong?”
“I lost my passy.”
Okay, people, I know a lot of you disagree with the fact that our four year old has a passy, but our four year old deals with a lot more scary than most four-year olds, and we are trying to be patient with him. Except in the middle of the night. I tossed his blankets around, and looked down in the cracks of his bed. The passy was nowhere to be found.
“Sam, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to go without it. I just can’t find it. Did you even try to look for it?”
At this, he started to cry. Sam doesn’t do anything quietly–especially crying–which usually turns into screaming. Now, not only was I in a code-red, no-passy situation, but my little screamer would certainly wake up the rest of the house.
I begged him to be quiet. He cried louder.
As I noticed his brother starting to stir, I panicked. And then, I lost my ever-loving mind.
You see, me not sleeping is like a drunk hanging out in a bar. It’s the first step toward crazy. Lack of sleep triggers mania, and mania, frankly, scares me to death. So whenever I can’t sleep, I start to panic. When my kids wake me up for no good reason? Panic meets anger, and that is never a good combo for this mom.
Even though it went against everything I was trying to prevent, I started screaming. At Sam. With his sleeping brother in the room. I got in his face and screamed, “Be Quiet!!!!”
He silenced for a moment and then broke into sobs, half terrified at his bed-head crazy mom screaming like a banshee in the middle of the night, and half broken-hearted at the look of rage all over my face. The look of fear across his face slapped me hard, and I slinked out of the room like a puppy who had just gotten hit on the end of her nose.
I made it back to my bedroom, but I didn’t sleep that night. I felt sick with the aftermath of my screaming rage, my out of control response to a four-year old. And yes, the passy thing is maddening. Absolutely maddening. And he shouldn’t wake me up to find his passy in the middle of the night, and he should be quiet.
But I’m the mama. And I need to be able to keep it together.
I woke up throughout that night, every couple of hours, sick with remorse. The alarm went off at 5:45, and I grabbed my coffee and climbed back into bed with my Bible.
I couldn’t help but pour my heart out to God,
“Lord, forgive me for what I said to Sam last night. Where did all that rage come from? Forgive me, Lord. Please cleanse my heart of this sick feeling.”
I finished my devotions, worked out, and crept into the boys’ bedroom, still half-sick in my heart. I climbed into Sam’s bed and nuzzled him as he softed his blanket.
“Sam,” I whispered, “I’m so very sorry about last night.”
He looked at me with cheeks full of love and chub. His eyes met mine with pure empathy as his dimpled little hands grabbed my face.
He said, “Oh, Mama, it’s okay. I love you so much and I forgive you.” And he kissed me, wet and sloppy, with his pink little fish lips. Tears fell from my eyes as I held my little boy in his bed. Then, we climbed out of bed and began our day.
I don’t know if Sam is old enough to even really fully forgive me, or if in 20 years he’ll be in therapy bringing up how his mom used to come in his room in the middle of the night and scream at him. maybe.
But I do know that teaching them to be good people who love the Lord, are self aware, human, and authentic means that I have to be real and self aware and authentic, too. That means being able to recognize when I’m wrong. And own it.
We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. James 3:2
So I tell my kids I’m sorry. I tell them I’m sorry because I’m wrong all the time. I tell them I’m sorry because I want them to know that leadership is not about being perfect or unquestionable, but about kneeling lower and reaching deeper.
I want them to understand that leadership is not about lording over my little people, but rather sacrificing my own agenda, my own ego, and my own self-righteousness. Teaching my boys to love Jesus and someday lead their own families requires that I must get down on my knees and submit to the same Lord I teach them to pray to. Teaching my boys means being open with them about my failings (as it concerns them). And when I screw up–now matter how much it may have been caused by sleep-deprived hysteria–I must humble myself and ask for forgiveness.
I’m not worried that they will question my authority because I ask them for forgiveness. I’m worried that they will question my authority because I don’t ask them for forgiveness.
If we raise children to believe that becoming head of a house, church, business, or community means that they are no longer personally responsible to others, we have failed.
I am accountable to God and my husband for how I treat these little people, and for how I teach them to treat others.
So I say I’m sorry. Over and over again.
And let me tell you: there is no balm for a mama’s guilty heart than chubby hands, bright eyes, and a fishy kiss.
No balm can heal like those little words out of a little heart,
“Mama, I forgive you.”
May James 4:6-10 wash over our imperfect hearts,
. . . He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
May we raise children who own their humanity and lead with humility.