Sometimes it is about more than training yourself to initially react properly, it is choosing to continue acting properly.
From the couch where we just finished reading our bedtime books, I can easily hear the girls electric toothbrushes scrubbing their bubble gum flavored paste against tiny teeth. And then I hear, “Owwwwwww!” followed by sobbing from the oldest.
“I’m so sorry Audrey, I really didn’t mean to,” Charlotte said in a genuinely apologetic tone.
(sobbing & owwww continues)
“Audrey! I said I am sorry; it was an accident” Charlotte shouts at her sniffling sister and then begins crying herself.
This would be the time when I stepped in to help with the wounds & negotiations.
Charlotte’s initial reaction to Audrey was exactly as we’ve taught and modeled for her–she was sympathetic and sincerely apologetic. However, when her big sister continued crying in the face of her sincere apology (how dare she), she moved to actions that showed anger and frustration. I am not surprised when a three-year-old acts that way; she has many years of training.
But it made me wonder…when my three-year-old wakes up cranky and emotionally unstable (can I get a witness that baby girl mood swings can be scarier than happening upon a wild animal?), my initial reaction is (typically) one of compassion and grace. I recognize that for whatever reason she needs an extra measure of space & grace. But, in the face of my compassion, when she continues to break down over the stroller stuck on the sidewalk and the turkey sandwich rather than hotdogs, I do not always choose to continue acting Christ-like.
When Mark calls to let me know he will be home for dinner…at 7:30 p.m., my initial reaction is one of compassion for him and understanding that the situation was unplanned and outside of his control. Two days later, when something else comes up (Hi, I am married to a business owner!), and he has to drive back to the stores after just getting home, I don’t always choose to continue acting Christ-like.
To me this simply reveals that I need more of Him and even less of me. Praise God, I have grown enough to be able to (often) initially react well–and praise Him still, He is still working on me!
So, here is my encouragement to myself and to you–when you are tempted to stop choosing to continue acting Christ-like even when there is still a sniffly sister, an unstable three-baby, or a late-for-dinner husband in your face, dig those heels in and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to do what you cannot on your own, display Jesus over and over.
And over and over.