Saturday, December 22, 2012

Attitudes & Beatitudes

Two of our children received the “Christian Character” award at their school’s end-of-term chapel and awards ceremony the other day. The awards are given to the boy and girl in each grade level who display the most Christ-like qualities.

The awards came as an enormous surprise to Scott and I for a number of reasons, including the fact that had these been the “Lambie Awards” these would not be the two children we would have deemed most Christ like. In fact, some of the more desirable fruits of the Spirit have eluded these two particular children for a few months now. It just goes to show that you really can’t judge your children by the way they behave at home.

It also came as a surprise because, to be honest I always thought my kids were doing pretty darn good if they get the coveted “child of the week” award before the month of May.

I’m not writing about the awards simply to brag about my kids (although I am a rather proud momma at the moment) but more so because I’m surprised by how completely inspired I am to behave more like my children…or at least more like the way they behave whilst at school.

I can’t help but wonder if there were such an award among my peers and colleagues (when I have them) would I even be in the running? I seriously doubt it. On a good day, I might shout only once at someone who cut me off in traffic. On a good day, I might make it home from the car pool run without having to apologize to one of my kids for losing my temper over the nonstop bickering and tattling. As my kids, family and friends all know, I’m not exactly known for having a good deal of patience or optimism.

One of the Christian Character certificates reads that this particular child received the award because he/she “is very nice, is good to others and never gives up.” The other certificate was awarded because this child “is kind to everyone all the time.”

I cannot begin to tell you how challenged I feel to be nice and good to others, to never give up and to be kind to EVERYONE, ALL the time.

When I think on some of the more admirable character traits of my three other children, I think about my child who has the faith of a saint and is always concerned about the well being of others. I marvel at his words, his thoughts and his concerns when I hear him pray out loud. I also marvel at his light-heartedness, resilience and creative genius – a true gift from God. He has the ability to see the silver lining in every situation and can see the beauty in a heap of trash. He’s appreciative of every meal I put in front of him (including rice and beans) and puts up the least amount of resistance when it comes to piano practice and homework. God fearing, appreciative, loving and obedient. Thank you Lord for this marvelous child.

My eldest child is wise beyond his years. He has a strong sense of justice and thus sets high moral standards for himself and others. The other day he actually refused to watch an R-rated movie with Scott and I. For a teenager, he has the kind of self-control most priests would probably long to have. The kid is so good at punishing himself, Scott and I rarely have to intervene when he makes a bad choice. He too has a strong faith, but unlike the unquestioning child-like faith of his younger sibling, his faith is the result of relentless inquisitiveness – questioning everything and seeking absolute truth – which led to self conviction of the undeniable truth. Wisdom, self-control and faithfulness. We are in awe of Your creation Lord.

Then there is the child who is still so young he wakes up with a smile on his face every morning. He finds delight in life’s simplest pleasures…feeding the chickens, turning a sock into a puppet, and running down hills. One minute he’s hugging my leg, and the next he’s chasing a butterfly. And when I'm short on patience, he’s always quick to forgive and forget. He may have come into this world unexpectedly, but this little life was  certainly no mistake. He is hope personified. He fills our house with joy and our hearts with absolute adoration. Joyful, trusting, loving. Thank you Lord for blessing us with this little light of Yours.

I often find myself praying for the fruits of the Spirit. Not just one specific fruit, but the whole fruit salad. I so desperately want to be a good Christian role model to my children and the kind of women that reflects the love of Christ to EVERYONE, ALL the time. Sometimes it seems that the harder I work on obtaining these fruits off, the harder they are to reach.

At one point, I decided that perhaps I was asking for too much. Maybe, I was being a bit too greedy. Maybe, rather than praying for the whole fruit salad, I should ask for one bite at a time. I decided to go with the one that looked easiest first. Gentleness. How hard could it be? Walk softly, talk softly, use gentle words, think gentle thoughts. Don’t be violent, don’t use force.

Turns out, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. For months I’ve been praying to be more gentle. It may come naturally for some people, but let me assure you there is nothing natural about being gentle to me. If I could, I’d slap gentle in the face, put it in a headlock and twist its arm until it succumbed to my will. As it is, I’m lucky if I can grasp it for one fleeting moment.

I never realized just how abrupt and abrasive I actually was until I started praying for this fruit. I never heard how heavy my feet sound as they pound down the hallway until I chose gentle. I never knew how many times a day I yelled across the house until I started focusing on this one “easy” character trait. At the rate I’m going, it may be half a decade before I’m ready to move on to the next fruit.  (I’m thinking I’ll leave self-control for last.)

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. No one person in our household possesses ample amounts of every one of these character traits, but when you throw our whole loud and rowdy family together, once you get past the noise and chaos, you’re bound to find a bit of each mixed up and across the whole lot of us.

I’m proud of my children, who they are, what they believe in and how they behave…at least, most of the time.  I know it took a heck of a lot more than good parenting to get them to where they are today. Their behavior and attitudes has a lot to do with their role models (pastors, grandparents, teachers, etc.) their school environment, the church, and above all else, God.

We all still have a long way to go to being true reflections of Christ. It’s easy to get discouraged…to wonder how I’ll ever nail any of the fruits if I can’t even nail gentleness. But today I’m inspired by each of my children to simply work harder on being the kind of Christian who is worthy of earning a “Christian Character Award.” I am challenged to never give up on being nice, good to others and kind to everyone, all the time. My children have become my role models, and I have so much to learn from them.

Lord, thank you for helping me recognize that I will never be like you, and that’s OK. Thank you for forgiving me when I’m anything but gentle, for the days when I don’t have the grace to shrug off an insult or the heart to be kind to someone who just needs a smile.

Thank you for the moments when you teach and inspire me through the attitudes of my children and the Beatitudes of my Jesus.

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