I do not aspire to be a person who pretends they have it all together. I try to keep it real regarding my struggles as a wife/Mama/friend/woman because I believe strongly that one of the best thing humans can do for one another is live authentically. I have made many decisions that are counter-culture without much worry over 'what other people think.'
All that being said, I have realized I have a real hang up when it comes to what people think about the behavior of my children.
Somewhere along the way I have subconsciously allowed my children's 'conduct' grade to be my report card as a Mama. The truth is, on a good day, we are barely a B. Trying to earn a (completely subjective) A+ is exhausting and has led me to a lot of unnecessary frustration.
I suppose it is because their Dad's work schedule makes me the primary trainer/disciplinarian. Maybe it is because I really value respect, kindness, gratitude and self control. Or perhaps it is simply this often sinful pride of mine...the old achiever in me wanting to do well in ALL things.
I read books. I pray with my children and for them. I consult with wise Mamas who have been there-done that. I work really hard to be consistent. We talk about these concepts. We role play. And yet, I have three feisty, precocious children who (gasp) behave like 8 year olds.
I don't expect perfection, honestly, but I do seem to have standards that are a bit high when it comes to their public performance. (Please don't crucify me in the comments. I am being vulnerable here.)
The Lord had been working on me about all this as my performance anxiety kicked in the week before school started. I started really praying that God would work on my heart and make me mindful of the slippery slope I was on in this area. I felt like I was making great strides until I received an e-mail from P & R's teacher requesting a conference on the 9th day of school. When I replied I asked her if she could at least tip her hat to which child we would be discussing. I gulped hard when she responded "a little of both, actually."
I fired off a frantic text to one of my best friends & her reply proved why she is in my inner circle: "Don't panic. You are raising smart, precious boys whose hearts love the Lord."
As I processed the message of consolation from my friend, my mind wandered to the antique silver service I have in my dining room. It is a beautiful heirloom from my husband's family. It is a gorgeous display piece, but it is not particularly useful.
I polish it periodically and although the coffee urn still gleams, the inside does not look fit to hold anything you would want to consume. For years the exterior has been meticulously kept, but somewhere along the way the interior has been neglected.
The text message, plus the visual led my mind to a passage from Matthew 23:
to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean
the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are
full of greed and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the
cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
In the same way, on the outside you appear to
people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and
Stark, biting words that I pray may never be true of me or those I love.
Am I striving to raise pretty display pieces that are socially acceptable but not of much use?
I was reminded again that if we focus on the insides (of ourselves and the children entrusted to us) our usefulness will never be in question. God can do anything with a willing, obedient heart that is surrendered to Him.
It is not that behavior, respect, courtesy and kindness are unimportant. I don't believe that at all. I just pray that we don't allow ourselves to confuse the outer behaviors with the core/heart truth.
When the world tempts us the focus all our attention on the exterior, I pray the Lord will keep bringing us back to the heart. May we not forget that true light, lasting love, and world-changing shine come from the inside out.
P.S. The nerve-wracking conference that started all this wound up being a precious gift. A one hour conversation that acknowledged my sons' unique challenges and how to reach/teach them best. I left feeling incredibly grateful for the wonderful woman God picked to teach them this year.