It was a #momfail kind of parenting week with one angry, tired, short-tempered day stacked on top of the other like wooden building blocks, which I’d leave out for the baby to play with if I had any remaining patience for things strewn all over the floor.
I yelled at the kids. I reacted instead of responded. I snarled at behaviors rather than shepherding the emotions behind them. In my head, I know all these things. And as I sat out on the front porch watching them ride their bikes and laugh and play with each other, the weight of my sin began to crush my heart.
Why does God allow this? Why does He give us children and make us parents when He knows we’re just going to screw it up? Screw them up? It must break His heart when I open my mouth sometimes.
He would be a much better parent. So why does He….let me?
I sat in the shade with those thoughts and asked God for help in my weakness before going back inside to prepare lunch. The baby came with me, and he promptly started disasterizing (it’s a word, believe me) the kitchen, which is something he does best. First the towels, then the cupboards, the tupperware drawer, and the dog’s water.
“No...NO...NO!!” I ran over just in time to stop the rest of the water bowl he’d picked up from spilling all over the floor. I don’t know why he does that--is he trying to bring it to me? From the look on his face, you’d think he was being helpful.
I sighed, set the bowl on the counter, and picked a towel out of the dirty pile to sop up the mess. It’s a waltz we do almost daily, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the baby grabbed a towel and dropped in on the floor next to mine, his chubby little foot trying to drag it across the puddle, just like me.
I bent down and went over the area again with the towel in my hands, and he plopped down on the floor and did the same.
It occurred to me as I knelt there that the only way we learn is by messing up. Or by making a mess. Again and again. Whether we’re toddlers with a water fetish or emotionally explosive parents, we learn by screwing up and trying again. By grace and repentance; by asking for forgiveness and help.
We learn and grow because someone loved us enough to let us.
Love is patient in spite of troubles, especially those caused by other people. It’s longsuffering. Love is in it for the long haul, suffering the setbacks, failures, and inconveniences of daily life right alongside one another.
Love, as it turns out, is the opposite of control. Love makes room for failure, messes, and mistakes. Love lets them fall so they learn how to get back up. Love lets them fail so they can figure out what it takes to succeed. And they will, eventually. Love holds on while at the same time letting go.
Love is the ultimate paradox.