When I was about five years old, we had a fire in our neighborhood. The red twirling lights of the fire truck, and shouts from the fire fighters, mesmerized me. This was high drama in my young life. After the smoke cleared, the fire truck roared off, and the neighbors began to disperse, I was disappointed it was all over…UNTIL I looked up and noticed Mrs. Johnston talking to my mom. She was a friendly enough lady, but what caught my attention was her wildly teased black hair and heavy makeup. Of course, as all five-year-olds are prone to do, I blurted out the first thing that popped into my puny mind, “My mom said you look like a witch.” It was true. My mom had actually said those words, casually, at home, without any thought that “little pitchers have big ears.” I don’t remember what Mrs. Johnston’s response was, but I do remember my mom’s hand moving quickly to her own flushed red face. Years later, Mom said she wished the ground would’ve opened up and swallowed her whole, right then and there.
I was always a shrimpy little kid throughout my childhood, and was a bed-wetter. Doctors assured my mom that my bladder was just small and would eventually grow and develop. But until my tiny bladder was able to “function” properly (and at the right times), my poor mother endured, yet another, embarrassing moment with me. We were shopping in J.C. Penney’s one day, in the women’s clothing department. I loved playing hide ‘n seek in the middle of those circular racks of clothing…UNTIL my pint-sized bladder, without warning, decided to empty itself right there on the floor, in the middle of one of those racks of clothing. I cowered in shame and shrank down deeper into the clothing until Mom found me…and the pee puddle. Mom’s hand went to her face…again.
Years later, during my smarty-pants-teenager-know-it-all stage, I’d mouth off to my mother quite frequently, with all the self-righteousness I could muster. “Why aren’t YOU more involved in church, Mom? Why don’t YOU attend church on Wednesday nights? I wish YOU would make more friends with the ladies at church…blah, blah, blah.” Mom’s hand rose to her face again, only this time it was to wipe away the tears streaming down her cheeks as she slowly walked to her bedroom and closed the door.
I eventually married, had children of my own and finally began to understand what I had put my mom through all those years. It was time for me to enter my own season of humility!
Our three-year-old daughter, during lunch with our pastor’s family at McDonald’s, stood up in her chair and proudly shouted her latest acquisition of knowledge, “BOYS HAVE _____es!” (Insert proper anatomical part here.)
Our polite young son cowered in the corner of the dugout at the Little League baseball games because he was too shy to mingle with the other kids.
Our darling four-year-old daughter pitched a royal screaming fit in the grocery store because I wouldn’t let her take candy from a stranger.
And, on a much more serious note, our prodigal son, in his early twenties made incredibly bad choices that altered his life, and ours, beyond what we could have ever imagined. My hands not only attempted to cover my face, but my heart and soul, as well.
We often hear that parenting is not for the faint of heart. However, I would disagree. Parenting is precisely for those whose hearts are weak, fearful and needy! The apostle Paul said, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10
During the difficult moments, I often want to hide behind my hands, shield my face and heart from the hurt, the embarrassment, the shock.
I want affirmation, not humiliation.
Acclaim, not embarrassment.
Joy, not sorrow.
But, I am JUST beginning to understand that it is precisely through these hand-wringing, face-covering experiences that God does His greatest work in my life. They are the tools He uses to shape me into a more humble and patient person, one who is desperately dependent on Him and better equipped to comfort others.
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