Discipline and Selfishness

Recently, I read a very good blog post about busy moms in the trenches of baby-/toddler-/preschooler-rearing and how we need The Church. I loved it, even though avoiding church out of exhaustion isn’t a particular struggle of mine. Still, a certain Scripture stood out from the article:

…make my [the apostle Paul’s] joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

~Philippians 2:2-4

The application in the above-referenced blog was to parenting, and how even though we may miss out on sermons or worshiping because of a fussy baby or a defiant toddler or preschooler, we need to refocus and consider our children’s needs as more important than our own. Bingo. I loved that. I “liked” it. And then I set about making breakfast.

Bennett (my nearly-three-year-old) was busy playing cars, waiting for breakfast to be ready. I communicated that he would play until breakfast was ready, which would be in just about five minutes. I gave him a two-minute warning. And finally, I let him know it was time to come to the table. OH THE HORROR!!! Flailing limbs, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, “BUT I’M NOT DONE PLAYING CARS!!!!!” Waaah waaah, whine, whine, scream.

I had a truly textbook response. It was a proud mom moment. I calmly and sweetly said to him, “Oh, my. Is that how we talk to Mom? Let’s try standing up, using your Big Boy Voice, and telling me what you need to tell me.”

It couldn’t have worked better — he promptly stood up, wiped his eyes, and stuffed down his whimpers as he c8471029060_40cabca059_oalmly asked, “Can I play cars for one more minute, please?” VICTORY! Glory hallelujah and amen. I said that he *could* have one more minute, and “thank you for your respectful attitude. In one more minute you will come to the table and eat breakfast with Mama. Yes ma’am?”

“Yes ma’am!”

One minute came and went, and it was a total train wreck from there. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but it ended with my removing him from his spot at the table, walking him to the living room, and having a discussion face-to-face, which was reinforced on his backside, and then leading him in repentance, prayer, and hugs.

The whole thing took so long (it always does; thanks Tedd Tripp!), that my eggs and muffin were ice-freaking-cold when we finally got back to the table. It would have been so much easier to just let him play with his dang cars until he decided he was done, and then let HIM eat cold breakfast alone.

As I sat down (after reheating my food), I remembered Paul’s words. Here’s a VERY amplified “paraphrase,” courtesy of yours truly:

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind with the Lord. Remember His mandate on parents and children — you *must* take the time and effort to discipline, as obedience to authority is at the heart of serving God. How can you obey God if you never learned to obey your parents? Maintain the same love — God disciplines those He loves. Unite in spirit with His Spirit, and be intent on one purpose: shepherding and disciple-making. Do nothing from selfishness (like wanting to eat a hot breakfast in peace) or empty conceit (like worrying about what other people will think), but with humility of mind regard your child as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the long-term, eternal interests of your child. It may seem like this is about breakfast and cars, but this is an important battle in the fierce war that is being waged for his soul. 

That’s some pretty fancy “exegesis,” isn’t it? Even so, the principles remain the same, even if Paul wasn’t really talking about parenting, eggs, or Hot Wheels.

Whenever I choose not to deal with misbehavior or defiance, I am putting my own needs above my son’s. Whether it’s my need to spend my next several minutes doing such-and-such pressing thing, or my need to avoid judgment in public, or my need to just not expend the energy right now, whenever I fail to discipline swiftly and appropriately, I am putting myself before my son. I’m choosing my own comfort and desires over the spiritual well-being of my son.

So, what?

So, this is my new go-to Scripture when I am reluctant to respond the way I should — “Angela, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Amen. (And Lord, help me.)

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Next Time

One time…
I felt God urging me to turn and talk to a person behind me in line at Kohl’s during Christmas. To see how I could bless her. I didn’t want to, so I literally said, “No,” in my head. To God. Almighty. The Creator of Heaven and Earth. (You really shouldn’t say no to Him.) I immediately felt conviction for it, of course, and I had time to change my mind and obey. Plenty of time, really, since it was Christmas and the line was looooong. Still resolved not to talk to her, however, I made up a new plan about how I could just buy a gift card for whomever ended up behind me when my cashier became available for the next customer. (You really shouldn’t try to bargain with Him, either.) Hey, it could end up being her, if that’s what God really wanted. Well, it didn’t, and it wasn’t. God didn’t want me to give her — or anyone — a gift card; He wanted me to talk to that one woman behind me. Sadly, I was too fearful of looking weird to her, of not knowing what to say.

Failure.

One time…
In college, a history professor went on a rant about how the Bible was not true history — that it was mostly myth and couldn’t be trusted. That stance itself is myth, and I knew it, but I was 20-ish, while he was Dr. somebody who had studied history for years. An older student did offer a dissenting opinion while I inwardly cheered, but then the professor quickly shot him down. I stayed silent. I was too fearful of being embarrassed in front of everyone because I wouldn’t have all the answers.

Failure.

One time…
A woman was going on and on about the importance of good deeds, saying how I was making her cry because of how good I was. She told me that she tapes Ellen every day because she’s just so touched at the woman’s charity. When she asked me why I was doing such-and-such, I told her that I was just trying to be a blessing. Then she told me how great it was and that her father had been a preacher. He’d always said that “it didn’t matter what you believed, as long as you believed.” My spirit objected, but my mouth stayed shut. Never did I say that I was doing such-and-such because of what Christ did for me. Never did I take the obviously free opening and correct her preacher father’s “theology.” Never. I left her, someone with a sensitive, servant’s heart, at the feet of Ellen Degeneres because I was too fearful of having an awkward conversation.

Failure.

One time…
I was sitting on the studio floor before yoga class began, reading Don Quixote. (Yes, I regularly read books that people typically only read in school. I’m currently reading The Scarlet Letter. Former English teacher here.) Anyhow, I was about 15 minutes early, and so were two or three others. The instructor walked in, her usual effervescent self, saying hello to the others. (Maybe to me, too, but she knew them personally, which I’d previously figured out, so I kept my nose in my book and tried, unsuccessfully, to ignore their chatter and continue reading.) She talked about her gratitude journal, and shared a page with one of the ladies who went on about how profound it was.  Still trying to ignore them, I re-read the same paragraph for the third time, annoyed. Suddenly, the instructor jumped up, clapped her hands, and exclaimed to the room, “Oh! Do you all want to see a picture of God’s face?!” Now this caught my attention, mostly because she generally talked about gratitude toward the “universe,” and her mentioning God really surprised me, but also because I did want to see a picture of God’s face, but I didn’t think she had one. Still desiring to stay under the radar — my M.O. — I kept my eyes steadied on my book, waiting for an opportune moment to catch a peek at whatever picture she was touting. I never did, but I didn’t need to anyway. In response to a couple of “Aww!”s, she explained that it was her grandbaby. And “what could be a better picture of God?”

I was stunned. I literally stopped breathing. My spirit screamed inside of me, and I felt like I was going to explode. I know I hear blasphemy all the time, but I’d never heard anything so blatant. I wasn’t angry; I was really alarmed and horrified. But I did nothing. Although I don’t know precisely what God wanted me to do or say, since I didn’t really ask Him, nothing certainly wasn’t it. And I knew it. I was too fearful of the response to do anything; I feared men over God. I didn’t even walk out. 

Failure.

The enemy tells me that I’m shy, and that that’s okay. That I can stay true to what I believe personally and stay quiet. God made me an introvert. It’s just my personality. It would be great if I were outgoing, but I’m just not. That’s fine, too. I am who I am, and I shouldn’t beat myself up about it.

That is a lie. He’s distorting the truth. I’m incredibly embarrassed and humbled to admit that, despite my boldness behind a computer screen, I have so often kept my mouth shut when I knew — I knew — God was telling me to speak up. I have embraced the lie that my personality gives me a free pass, and I have accepted it as my excuse for disobedience.

I have failed — a lot. I struggle immensely with this. God, however, is bigger. My introversion, while it’s a fact of my God-given personality and is not a deficiency, must not be the crutch I so readily make it into. It’s okay to be shy, but it’s not okay to be disobedient. The enemy wants to use my record of failures as evidence to keep me from ever obeying God in this way, but I know that I’ll never be any use to the Kingdom if I don’t let go of my failures and trust God. I must forget the past and look ahead to so many possibilities of success next time!

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:13b-14 ESV)

This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted at Peter Pollock’s blog.  Go there and read other submissions on the word “failures.”