Friday afternoon, the kids and I pulled up into the driveway and I turned off the engine. I got out to go around to Gracie's door so I could get her unbuckled, and noticed that Nathan had gone around the back, opened her door and was trying to help her out. I say trying, because she was screaming at him to stop touching her and generally being unreasonable. I made her calm down and let Nathan help her, and then thanked Nathan for being so helpful. I turned to Gracie and told her to tell Nathan thank you for his help.
She pressed her lips together and glared at me. Sigh. For the hundredth time in 2 weeks, we had this conversation:
Xandra: "What happens when you don't obey Mommy?"Great! Problem solved and we moved on. We tackled disobedience and manners in the same lesson. Too bad it didn't actually work out that way. When it came to actually saying thank you, it was quite problematic. She pressed her lips together and glared at me. When after some prompting she still refused to speak, I followed through and gave her a swat. I then instructed her to go tell Nathan thank you.
Grace: "I get a spanking."
Xandra: "So would you rather obey Mommy and tell Nathan thank you, or would you rather get a spanking for being disobedient?"
Grace: "Say thank you."
Again, the pressed lips and the glaring. We had the above conversation again, and she made the same choice. And we went through the same thing, again. Two swats, and no "thank you."
People, she took three spankings and when she finally said thank you it was barely intelligible. So much for absorbing the lesson on politeness. I sat her on my lap and held her for a bit and told her that I loved her, and all was well with the world.
I actually can't remember why we were going through the cycle of conversation, choices and discipline, but Trevor was home by then. After it was over, I told him about the earlier incident, and he said, "She's just like you."
At first, I dismissed it as joking about how stubborn I am, but then I realized that he had a point. It is true that I am stubborn, particularly when I think I'm right. But what he was talking about was my pathological hatred of being told what to do. For example, if Trevor and I are wrestling and he has me down he will tell me to say uncle. I would rather have my finger snapped off than to give in. Maybe it's because I had a big brother. Who knows?
But that is the spirit in which Gracie is disobedient. It's not that the thing we are asking her to do is beyond her or even distasteful. It's the fact that it's not her idea and so she does not want to do it. That's when I started thinking about this shared personality trait in terms of my relationship with God. Sometime I don't want to be obedient out of pure obstinancy. Just like Gracie misses the blessing of harmony with her family when she disobeys Trevor and me, I miss the blessing of being in communion with the Father. I go through discipline and refining when I choose disobedience.
But when I finally let go of my will, and submit to God's, the homecoming is so sweet. Love and forgiveness wash over me as I confess and repent of my sin. I (foolishly) vow to never disappoint my Father again and, at the time, truly mean it. But inevitably the cycle begins again, and I find myself on my knees confessing and repenting. But here's the kicker:
He is faithful to forgive my sins and welcome me back with open arms.
As much as I love Gracie and only want good things for her; and would never turn her away, how much more does my Father in heaven love me? When I fall away in sin and disobedience, I have the sweet assurance that my Father in heaven will never turn me away either.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10.