We stand at the doorway of our child’s room, and tell him, “Clean your room.” We know if he does all the great toys will be rediscovered. We know they will be taken care and not lost. We know there will be a sense of accomplishment and a lesson of responsibility learned. We know we are training him to take care of himself. We know there is even a lesson of submitting to authority. There are so many lessons. Not to mention our own pleasure of order around us. If he cleans his room, he will learn to value what he has. He will learn that at times it takes effort, even discomfort to care for things of value. We are teaching value itself even. We are teaching organizing skills. To clean a room, often a child has to picture the vision of the clean room and break it down into a step by step process. He learns so many skills this way! He will learn he can do what feels impossible! He will learn to persevere and so then even develop character. He will develop hope. He will be able to accomplish even more. One day perhaps run a household of his own! Hold a job. Pay the bills. And teach children of his own, to clean their room.
We ask a simple thing really, an ordinary, doable thing. We have no doubt that the boy can accomplish this task. In fact we’ve even seen him do it before. We think he will remember last time it only took ½ an hour. We aren’t saying it to be mean. It’s not a punishment. It is simply a passage. It is a small step in a process that will involve many steps. Perhaps we don’t even want to enforce this. Perhaps we feel unprepared for a battle. We may be distracted by the discomfort of standing our ground, risking back lash and possibly hurtful words. It seems like a sure way to break peace. Yet, most of us will go ahead anyway. And not just for the selfish satisfaction of our home getting organized.
But the child, living in the moment, lacking the ability to see all that this will prepare him for, responds with a whine. “But that will take forever!” He begins his battle. He launches straight into emotional warfare. If he is a seasoned pro, after many rounds, he may even end with, “You don’t love me! You never listen to me! You aren’t fair!”
Perhaps if the parent has some training, she won’t respond personally. No matter how many emotional swords get used, she will understand. This is just a test. This is just a process. These are natural murmurings of growing pains. And right before her eyes, a child is becoming something more. She won’t be fooled for one second, because she knows it won’t take forever, and she always knows she loves him. She loves him so much that she will stand in the doorway again, knowing he will throw these hurtful words. He will sacrifice relationship for ease. But she knows he will understand someday. Probably not this day. But he will get it done. Sometimes she will even help pick up some of the mess… but most days she knows he needs the natural consequence to learn a new pattern. To learn that our choices have outcomes.
I realize sometimes I am this child still. The room is bigger. The mess is more complicating. And it is not as easy to figure out who to use these emotional swords against. I feel like it will take forever. I feel like even ½ an hour is too long. I feel scared because I can’t vision it clean yet. I forget that I have been developing these skills for all my life, and those I don’t have yet, God will provide as I go. I am scared because it just seems like maybe He is asking too much. He is asking something I am not interested in anyway. I don’t care if the room is clean. And I am not thinking about going out on my own anyway, so what do I need all those skills for? I have a long tantrum. I try sacrificing relationship with Him, for ease. I try asking if He even loves me? I ask Him what it even matters if my room is clean? Isn’t it my room? Shouldn’t I decide? Is He really being fair?
He doesn’t respond without emotion. But He isn’t afraid. Not at all. He understands my childishness and lack of vision. He knows exactly what I can do, and how it will look when I am done. He loves me enough to stand in the doorway again and again and instruct me to do this thing even though He knows what I will accuse Him of. He knows I will feel some discomfort and frustration, and even some fear. He also knows that He would never leave me untrained, unprepared. He is not threatened because He knows He loves me even when I don’t understand. He even helps when I ask!
God, give me peace in this moment…. I will trust you and I will believe you see more in me than I can, and that you know all things. You aren’t asking me to do something I can’t do, or even to do it on my own. You love me enough to stand in my doorway again and again. You stand right in front of me, right behind me, right beside me. I will trust you know the outcome, and the purpose, and even my abilities. I don’t have a clue what reasons you are asking this of me. Without knowing the reason, I will surrender. I will do my best, and I will look to you as I go, because as of now I am kind of unsure… For now, these are musing of my soul. What is my name?
Call me Mara