Dawn is so lovely here. In the quiet hours of this morning God has shown me something very important. I see now that my frustration and disappointment over t's behavior and rebellion are evidence that my love for him has in many ways been selfish. My love for him has been for the sake of what I get out of the relationship—for the love I get back from him. This is exactly what Franz Kafka criticized as love that is not really love (and he's right), leading him to dismiss the concept of love altogether. (He was wrong about that).
For the past year, t's behavior has gradually declined. His will has surfaced and his behavior has become more and more difficult to manage. But parenting is not at its core about managing behavior is it?
Years ago a missionary friend told me: “How I treat my kids and how they treat me, says more to this community than anything I ever say from the pulpit.” Intuitively I recognized this as true. But I've been repeating it for years without really understanding what it means. It does not mean that the people will listen to me because my kids respect me. It means loving my kids even when their behavior is atrocious—even when they are unfaithful to me—even when I am getting nothing back, or worse yet, getting frank rebellion in return. Is this not what Our Father has done for us? Is this not the best way to show people the gospel—what God has done for me? He has taken me back and comforted me and forgiven all that I have done and will do. How can I not do the same for t?
Even as I have been writing this, t has been totally unloveable. I stopped writing to make him a nice breakfast at his request. He promptly spent the next thirty minutes screaming, and wailing, and thrashing about because his scrambled eggs were “too big.” I was fairly patient with him, but he just got worse and worse. I gave him a lot of chances but eventually I had to walk away from him. Is he finding assurance of my love by pushing me away with bad behavior and then asking in effect, “Do you still love me?” More screaming. “Now do you still love me?”
I don't know if I'm over analyzing things (perhaps that's my form of comfort). Perhaps he's just having “normal” temper tantrums. But it has certainly caused me to wonder: “What does this reveal to me about how God handles my rebellion and tantrums?