Recently, I had some of those low and frustrating days as a mom of young children. Thankfully, I can say that most days I truly enjoy having three little voices calling out to me as mom, but like most women, I can experience exasperation in this wonderful gift. I felt a little bit convinced that these sometimes sweet boys were seeking to drive me over the edge by disobeying the majority of my requests and making even the simplest activities difficult.
- Playdates felt like a daunting experience, where I was going to have to spend the whole time putting people in time-out for hitting or throwing, and continually chasing little boys headed off into off-limits areas.
- Read alouds ended in everyone shedding tears with book pages ripped all over the carpet, fighting over the most desirable titles.
- Bedtime meant struggles over brushing teeth, tugging stuffed animals out of greedy hands and going in to lay kids down again and again and again.
- Our household sounded like an a capella chorus of "Whining" with the lyrics "mommmmmyy!!!! I neeeeeed you!" playing on repeat.
I was pretty much considering a few options at one point:
1) Completely ignoring all of their behaviors and heart attitudes. "Maybe my kids can just parent themselves?"
2) Turning into a yelling / scary mom that rules everyone with an iron fist. "Maybe I can just show them who's boss, and then they will stop pressing all my buttons?"
3) Taking an extended vacation to an all-inclusive resort. "How long until everyone runs out of food and clean clothes?"
I think every mother of young children has felt this way at SOME point or another (or I sure hope I'm not the only one who hits these walls of frustration). The issue isn't DO we have these moments, but what do we DO to get past them?
Where am I finding my joy?
As I folded laundry, only to have someone tear through a neatly stacked pile of t-shirts, I had to stop and check my heart that was bubbling with anger.
What was I telling myself?
What was I believing?
What was I allowing to control me?
Why wasn't I having joy?
These moments are red flags, not to show that we are abnormal women, but that we've taken our eyes off of Jesus and placed them onto something else. I wasn't finding my joy and hope in God alone, but instead I was placing contingencies on my joy:
- "I need our kids and family to be FUN in order for me to have joy."
- "I need our household to sound and look PEACEFUL in order for me to have joy."
- "I need our life to be EASY in order for me to have joy."
How can I stop and pursue my joy in God?
- I had to acknowledge, "God, I'm hoping in a fun, easy and peaceful life. I'm not finding my joy in you. I'm not looking to you for fulfillment. Instead I'm looking to my circumstances." This in itself is a huge step!
- I had to repent, "God, forgive me for not enjoying and seeking you as the most wonderful and fulfilling thing in life. Help me make changes that are consistent with the truth that I believe."
- I had to speak truth to myself. "I know that you are the only thing that can bring me joy. Help me pursue my joy in you."
This isn't a one-time, magic wand process. It's something that has to be done daily, sometimes even every few minutes! There are practical things we can do to orient our hearts and minds around joy in God:
- Listen to or sing worship music to God
- Make note of the undeserved gifts God has given
- Meditate on the gospel: God's patience with you, his mercy towards you, his gift of salvation to you
- Pray simple prayers of humble need, asking for God's help
- Practice obedience by serving or moving forward in faith that you will have joy in God as you do His will
Done over and over again, these disciplines have the ability to help us reorient our hearts and minds towards truth.
So did this mean that I automatically stopped snapping at my kids and started leaping with jubilee each time they whined or needed something? No. But it did allow me to move forward in some productive ways. With my heart oriented on God, I was able to seek His practical help with challenging situations. Recognizing opportunities to walk in-step with God: "How can I discipline more consistently? Is there an area I need to ask my children for forgiveness where I haven't been faithful? How can I structure our day or our life better to train our children well?" This meant remembering that making disciples is not an easy or painless task.
Lately I've been reading through "Desiring God" by John Piper at the same time we've completed a video series on the topic through Sunday School. I'll be the first to admit, it's stretching my brain and my theology! But I really do want to understand and seek my greatest joy in God - and stop separating "joy" from "obedience". Because for followers of Christ, our greatest joys are not in competition with a life lived for Him.
So next time you hit a mommy wall of frustration, it might be good to stop and ask, "What conditions am I placing on my joy?" and more importantly, "Where am I finding my joy?"