Last week, my husband went away for five days for a family member’s graduation. I was thrilled he was able to go, but I always get a bit nervous when I am alone with the children for several days straight. Part of the anxiety is that managing two children is always tough. Mornings and evenings are chaotic – just when you think everyone is settled, one child starts screaming. When you have tucked in the youngest so you can read to the oldest, the youngest keeps getting out of bed. Even with my husband around, the chaos often feels unmanageable.
The first couple of days after my husband was gone, things went as I suspected. The children were loud, crazy, and frustrating. There were lots of timeouts, lots of deep breaths, and lots of lost tempers. But by day three, I slowly began to loosen up. I began to realize that there was no way I was ever going to get the children to behave exactly how I wanted, when I wanted, and where I wanted. And so I started figuring out how to pick my battles, I gave up on my own rigidity around “the schedule,” and I figured out how to shift from toleration to acceptance. By day four, I was no longer stressed out or anxious. I was being firm, but having fun; I was letting go of what I couldn’t control; and I was able to appreciate this sacred alone time with the girls.
Part of what took me so long to make that shift in behavior and perspective is that I am someone who likes a sense of control and order. I get irritated when things do not go as I planned, and I get impatient when things do not happen in a timely, organized manner. And while some may call it stubborn, I have thought through things and selected what I believe is the best course of action; so, when kids do not want to comply, I get frustrated. These are, obviously, not the best traits for a parent. Parenting involves much more agility, creativity, and comfort with ambiguity.
I have begun to wonder if my revelation about my own tendencies and behaviors with my children might also be true about my tendencies and behaviors with God. How often have I wanted God to behave in a certain way, and could not seem to get God to comply? How often have I been impatient, frustrated, and irritated with God? How often have I been rigid in my expectations with God? This week, I am taking a cue from my children, remembering how much more meaningful, loving, and fun our relationship can be when I let loose of my desire for control. I suspect the same may be true of my relationship with God too!