We have an eight year old girl and a four year old girl at our house. That combination makes for some exciting times at our home. Some really fun times and funny times. But that combination can also produce whining, aggravation, frustration, crying, mean looks, and sometimes tears…and that’s just how I sometimes feel!
But at times my two girls get along perfectly. You’d think they were custom made for each other. But more and more lately I’ve seen the two of them starting to act rude, mean, quite disrespectful toward each other. And amazingly often times it’s either perpetrated or perpetuated by the oldest. She seems to purposefully try to stir up and aggravate her younger sister. And my four year old usually is happy to comply and will answer with a snarl, shriek, whine, cry or other sound that I don’t like.
So I have had a talk with them. Actually multiple talks, but the last one was my most serious. I think I realized I need to not let my own emotions get stirred up when a fight breaks out. Usually I get frustrated by the sounds my younger one is making, frustrated by what the oldest is doing to make the youngest make those sounds, and frustrated why the oldest thinks it’s necessary for her to intentionally create this chaos. Why can’t she just act in a nice, loving, humble, kind, self controlled manner?
Of course the answer is that she’s a person. And all of us people have times we’re thinking wrong thoughts and sometimes we act out on them. But last night as I was lying in the still of the bedroom after the whole house was asleep I was asking God to shape their hearts to be more and more like His. And for him to pour into their lives the fruit of His spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control). But as I prayed I realized that He was asking me to help pour those things into their lives. That my wife and I are to be the primary shapers of who they become. And for me to pour anything into their lives (their buckets), it’s got to be in my life (bucket) to begin with. That’s humbling.
Joe Paslay told me that a long time ago as I was interviewing to work at Camp Lake Stephens. His talk was from the angle of being a counselor and pouring into campers as they are under your watch for the week. But the concept is the same. I can’t give, teach, show my kids anything that I am not already understanding and living out myself first. It’s a concept I have known for years! But as the kids grow up, parenting gets more challenging. I thought I was a smart and awesome dad when I had just one child. But it’s getting more challenging as they grow, mature (and sometimes seemingly decrease in maturity). And I am going to want them to rely on Jesus more and more. And He is showing me that I have to rely on Him just as much or more in order to show Him to them effectively.
Now…add to the mix a boy who just turned 15 months old…and the next couple of decades of my life will be an exciting adventure!