The irony has not been lost on me: We are not two weeks out of the Easter season, a time when I am reminded ever so clearly what Christ has done for me through his love and sacrifice, and I'm beating up on myself, not willing to forgive myself. Not willing to be Forgiven this morning. Feeling like my Daily Bread is not going to make a difference in the weight on my heart. I'm such a sinner, and my recurring sin pattern is self-sufficiency--living my life like I don't need Him (though I know I do), living my life in such a legalistic/perfectionist way as to get to where I don't need Him anymore (didn't realize I was doing this until recently). When the toddler is out of control in crazy tantrum mode, dangit, I can HANDLE it!
But I can't. Not by myself. And last night that was ever so clear.
A few months ago (could it even have been over a year ago? yes, maybe), I was sitting in Sunday school/Bible study/something church-y, and this question was raised: What is the look on God's face when he looks at you, your life, what you do and have done?
Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was that He couldn't be anything but disappointed. I imagined what my face must look like when I'm reprimanding my students, and transferred that to the Holy of Holies. It was a ridiculous thing to do, because the answer to the question is only one thing:
God looks at me with the loving look of a Father upon a newborn babe, with smiling, twinkling eyes, and love radiating from His face. He's looking at me through Jesus-colored glasses, as it were. Jesus died for my sins so that I could be saved; I am covered by His blood. Through Him, I am whole and perfect in the sight of the Lord, even when I'm feeling broken and imperfect. If you don't understand that to be True, then you don't understand the Gospel. Or you've forgotten it in the wake of your sins like I did.
I woke up this morning praising God for this Truth, because I am so, so ugly inside right now. My heart is aching thinking about how terribly imperfect I really am. I'm a selfish, childish mirror of my toddler, which is scary.
When I was in late elementary school or middle school (we lived in Germany at the time) is the last time I ever remember feeling the way I feel right now. Mom had gone back to work and my sister and I came home to an empty house for about thirty minutes to an hour every day before Mom made it home. We would usually use the time to fight. Physical, no holds barred. Chasing each other around the apartment: kicking, punching, screaming, hitting, biting, clawing, pushing, shoving, beating. It was wide open. Raw. And it was two-way aggression. I don't know that either of us was the instigator more than the other. I don't remember what brought it on. I just remember that feeling that was left in my heart: satisfaction, remorse, confusion, self-pity, a mix of dread and anticipation. I don't believe that we ever left any physical bruises or marks, but perhaps there was emotional bruising. I do know that a glass panel in a door was victim to these after school fight club sessions, and even though I wasn't the one who pounded on it to the point of shattering it, I was the one who got in trouble. Funny how the memory doesn't forget such trivialities.
I don't remember when the fighting stopped. Possibly when we moved? Because I only associate this with the apartment on base, with middle school. I don't remember when I learned to walk away, just that it got easier to walk away as I grew older.
And now I have a toddler who is bringing up these feelings again. This time, I'm an adult. And I'm the responsible party. And I don't understand how something so small can cause a reaction in me that is so big.
Last night at bedtime (Eli was at his Coast Guard meeting), she screamed at me for over an hour, waking up Oscar, causing him to scream at me, too. She was overtired because she refused to go to sleep when she first was sleepy. And the littlest things made her scream and cry and carry on (I don't want a sheet on my bed! I want water! No, don't put the pillow case on! Not that cup! I want to rock!) She was in hysterics--maxing out her voice box, hitting, spitting, clawing, kicking. Efforts (both physical and verbal) to quell this behavior were unsuccessful. I had to leave the upstairs. I closed the gate and I went outside, where the sounds of screaming were sound-proofed. And I sat on my front stoop at 9:30 at night and I cried. Loud, heaving sobs. I'm surprised the neighbors didn't turn on their outside lights to investigate. I was sure that I was having an asthma attack. Once I was calm and my breathing was semi-regulated, I opened the front door and the screaming hit me in the face, my blood pressure sky-rocketed, my chest constricted. So what did I do? I went up the stairs and I mirrored my child's throat-cracking wail. And then I cried some more on the floor of their bedroom. And they got quiet. Confused. (I'm sure they were thinking Is she laughing or crying?). Oscar got back in bed and laid down, with his eyes wide open. Elsie eventually got back in bed but kept crying (but, thankfully, not screaming). And by the time Eli got home, I was ready to pass out from a mixture of not breathing well, self-loathing, and exhaustion. But, of course, the sheets were in the dryer and the bed was covered with laundry so it took a whole lot more effort to put this incident to bed for the night. Eli went in there and they went to sleep almost immediately. I might be a bit jealous and a lot thankful.
My heart was still heavy when I woke up this morning. And so I prayed. And was reminded of God's love for me, the adult version of the tantrum-throwing toddler. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Will you please pray for me as I work through this ugliness that has reared its head? And go ahead and throw in a prayer for all parents of toddlers, because I know I'm not in this alone, in more ways than one. Thank you, Lord.
Romans 4:7-8 ESV “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”