I knew it was going to be a long day. The past two nights children were up later than usual, summertime activities and swimming were taking a toll on everyone’s energy levels and birthdays always seem to create an element of chaos. So when Madden woke up fairly grumpy, whining and complaining on Wednesday (his 4th birthday), I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Nevertheless, we had a super-fun day (or that was what I was aiming for!) ahead of us, and so, we dove in to the day-long celebration. From our breakfast stop at Krispy Kreme to the splash pad at the Atlanta Zoo, Madden complained or pouted or whined about a dozen times. Though weary and disappointed that he wasn’t able to enjoy his special day to the fullest, I continued seeking to make his day enjoyable as any good mama would…and even his siblings were bending over backwards, trying to please Mr. Impossible. Of course, there were still lots of giggles and smiles…when the kids got the entire zoo playground to themselves and when they fed the giraffe for the first time. But I felt like the over-arching theme of the day was discontentment, fatigue and complaints…not quite to joyful birthday I had envisioned!
Then came the cake and ice cream…about two bites into his cake (which I spent about four hours making, at least!), he looks up in all seriousness and announces “I don’t like this cake.” Forcing back tears, I looked at him and calmly and kindly said “that’s okay…you don’t have to eat it.” I could tell the other kids were stunned and Molly Kate quickly tried to cover up his remark by assuring me that he just thinks the icing is too sweet (which I do believe ended up being the case). I told the kids that it was fine and that Madden just seemed to be struggling with complaining that day. I got up to get Maggie ready for her nap and I think Kevin may have mentioned something to Madden about his attitude. Then we all headed to our rooms for rest time, which I certainly needed by that point!
A few hours later, as I was helping the kids get bathed and dressed for Wednesday evening dinner and bible study, Madden suddenly looks at me and says these words…”Mommy, I’m sorry that I’ve been complaining a lot today.” It was the sweetest, most sincere moment of repentance and I was and am so thankful that I happened to be in the middle of reading a book about giving the grace of the gospel to our children. I got down on my knees, looked into his beautiful blue eyes and said something to the point of “you know, Madden…Mommy has a hard time not complaining too sometimes, especially when I’m tired. But you know what? I know that even on days when I complain, God still loves me because I have put my faith in His Son Jesus. Will you ever be able to stop complaining?” He shook his head and I said “that’s right….Who is the only One who can help you stop complaining?” And he quietly answered “God.” And I reiterated the truth that is already taking root in his heart…that our God is the only one powerful enough to break the evil in our hearts through the righteousness of Jesus…we can never do it on our own.
These conversations happen often with my children, but for some reason, I reflected on this incidence with a bit more gratitude and a few more tears. You see, of all my children, Madden is the one I probably spoil the most, discipline the least and the kid I have spent the smallest amount of time teaching Bible truths. If his salvation was up to me and my efforts thus far, he’d probably never know Jesus as Savior. But, praise be to God that He is the One who saves whom He wants to save…and praise be to Him for the grace He’s granted my little boy to see his sin, to ponder it for a while and in humility, to come to me and repent. I recognize that is no small thing and I rejoice in seeing these first fruits of the gospel taking root in his heart.
I’m reminded of this passage…one I reflect on often as I persevere in raising children…sinners who need the light of Christ…
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
I recognize that God is the One who unveils, God is the One who gives sight to the blind, God is the One who shines the Light into a dark heart…and I know that my children need Him to do that work in their lives more than they need anything else. May God grant me the grace to press on in the ministry of mercy and not lose heart as I teach, correct, train and rebuke this little crew He has entrusted to me.
Here’s a few moments from Madden’s big day…thankfully, there were still smiles abounding: