There are only two classes per grade in our elementary school. As a result we have a sort of rotation system with our trio, allowing each child to be in class without any siblings once every three years. This year, P is flying solo while K & R are in a class together. Their teacher, Mr. M, is notorious for instilling respect and chivalry in his young charges. As a mother who values treating others well, I have looked forward to this year. My son, however, seems to be experiencing some adjustments.
Wednesday night we were out to dinner as a family with a friend of ours. At one point when sassiness reared its head in young R, my husband asked him to "straighten up and behave like a gentleman."
R responded with an outburst of frustrated tears, "I have to act like a gentleman ALL DAY at school. I cannot come home and act like a gentleman here too. There are so many rules. I am TIRED of being a gentleman!"
And as I witnessed a nine year old mini-breakdown I found myself identifying with his feelings.
I get tired of 'acting' like a Christian lady sometimes. I don't always want to respond with patience and peace or be concerned with my tone. It can be exhausting to mentally review the list of all the rules for a "good Christian wife & Mom." To borrow a term from Jen Hatmaker, I am spicier than that.
I am reminded that the essential difference is whether I am 'acting' like one or actually AM. Going through the motions is exhausting. Living according to a 'script' or a checklist is not the answer. Jesus calls us to rely on His indwelling to cause that fruit to be real in our lives.
Emily Freeman's gem of a book, Grace for the Good Girl is speaking deeply to my heart about the exhaustion that comes from hiding behind "what we are supposed to be/do" and the freedom in abiding in Him and living out of the overflow instead.
I want to give God my best as a wife, Mom, friend and woman. It would be pleasing to my pride to punctuate that with well behaved children who fit the part of 'ladies' and 'gentlemen,' but not at the expense of our souls. It is so much easier to dress up the outside than it is to put in the hours of prayer, teaching, forgiving, loving and TRUSTING God for His timing that leads to change from the inside out.
But this is eternity we are talking about. And when I am honest I know I am completely incapable of producing anything lasting on my own in my life or in the hearts of my children. So the checklist lies crumpled on the floor (this morning at least) and I repeat this mantra:
"You are not accepted because you are good.
You are free to be good because you are accepted.
You are not responsible to have it all together.
You are free to respond to the One who holds all things in His hands.
You do not have to live up to impossible expectations.
You are free to wait expectantly on Jesus, the one who is both author and perfecter of your faith."
-Emily Freeman, Grace for the Good Girl
Now to explain how this doesn't excuse atrocious 9 year old table manners.