Yesterday, I posted about the choice of words that are used in talking about our children.
I thought I should discuss a little more why I find this area so difficult, and why I end up feeling more isolated in consequence. In simple terms, it is because my heart is fundamentally selfish! I notice it was about this time last year that I wrote about cultivating a 'gratitude attitude', and it was partly in relation to similar feelings to those I currently describe. Our words are important. They do speak volumes about our greatest desires, our most deeply held beliefs, our fundamental worldview.
Jesus said, 'A good man brings good things out ofthe good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out ofthe evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what theheart is full of.' (Luke 6:45). Phrased differently, 'out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks'. But once spoken, those words are out there, cannot be taken back, cannot be changed, and may go on to have consequences beyond what we can imagine.
In the writings of James, one of Jesus' contemporaries, this is more fully discussed:
'Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.' (James 5-10)
It is easy to speak. And to say things which can harm others.
If it were easy to speak positively at all times, I might not be writing this post! If it were always my first and instinctive reaction to speak positively of others at all possible times, I would not be describing this as a challenge. If it were never a source of conflict (both internal and interpersonal), then there would not be anything to say. But sadly, that is not the case.
But there are days when I do feel tired, discouraged, frustrated. Yes, there are days when I walk past the windows of coffee shops and see perfectly groomed women sipping coffee with their daintily dressed daughters sitting obediently with their colouring books and wish for a moment that I could join them inside rather than run around a park in the pouring rain with a rugby ball, half a dozen sticks and a few caterpillars in our 'collection'. There are days when I feel a little envious of friends who have a parent or an in-law who regularly looks after the children for a time. There are days when I do not remember that God graciously gives all things as He sees fit; rather than rejoicing in His wise and sufficient provision for my family, I am tempted to covet. And I know, only too well, that these are unpleasant, selfish attitudes and that they do not fit with one of my favourite exhortations, 'Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ' (Philippians 1:27)
It might be shocking, but there are times when I almost catch myself agreeing with the derogatory comments that other parents make about their offspring. It can almost seem as though those comments are there as a test, there to make one stumble! It is tempting to give in, to swim according to the prevailing stream.
And so, what do I do? Do I spend time with friends who seem to have a very different attitude towards their children than ours, and hope to ignore comments and remarks? Do I counter them, suggesting that the attitude is not helpful and is potentially discouraging? When others seek simply to 'entertain' their children in a way that keeps them quiet for longer periods of time, how do I continue to interact with my own children in a way that is normal for us, without appearing to tacitly criticise the others? Already, there is often a defensiveness about the fact we haven't put the children in a nursery or used a childminder, as though simply by being different we are implying criticism. Sometimes it feels like a minefield to navigate, and there are times (and perhaps in the school holidays more so than at other times!) when it is simply easiest to be alone as a family, despite the loneliness.
Where is the encouragement? I don't think anybody consciously seeks to make me stumble or to bring discouragement. But even within the church, where people will reel off the verses about how 'children are a gift from God, the fruit of the womb an inheritance', or tell the story of how Jesus bid the little children come to Him for blessing, the same attitudes seem to prevail.
I am grateful for the role models I have. I am grateful for those who will read this and understand what I am trying to say. I appreciate the prayers of those who hold my family close to their hearts, and seek that we be a household where God is honoured, and where our home is a place of rest and refreshment for the weary. I value the encouraging comments made here on the blog, or via email. It helps to read the writings of others who seek to walk the 'narrow path' and to encourage one another on the way.
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)