"What has surprised you the most about being a mother?"
That was the question our pastor asked the women in our congregation on Mother's Day several years ago. Moms, of all ages and stages of life, responded with whimsical, witty and warm-hearted answers. I sat there silent. Not because I didn't have anything to say. But, because I was ashamed of the first thing that popped into my head. I waited, hoping someone would share something unpleasant or difficult. And, while mother after mother gushed about her fond memories, I wondered "am I the only one surprised by how angry I can get at my precious little children?"
My biggest surprise about being a parent was that I had a temper! Growing up, I remember only one time when I got really angry. So, where had my temper come from? Although no one mentioned it that Sunday morning, I knew I wasn't alone. Afterwards, I compared notes with other moms who had the same or similar "surprises" come to mind. I also had school teacher friends who had confided their dismay about how calm and collected they were in a classroom but how impatient and angry they could get at home with their own kids.
I hated myself when I got angry with my children. I remember one afternoon while visiting a friend, I laid my infant on a blanket on the floor to change his diaper. At that moment, my two year old came running down the hall, careening around the corner and rammed a push toy, “popcorn popper," smack into the top of the baby’s head.
My baby boy began to wail. I hate to confess it, but the first thing I did was to grab my toddler by the arm. I screamed at him for running in the house and for hurting his baby brother. After venting my anger at my bewildered child, I scooped my baby boy up into my arms to console him, praying that no damage had been done to his still soft head.
Even though I knew all mothers lost their tempers from time to time, too often my own angry outbursts were unreasonable and unpredictable. I felt helpless as, again and again, I lost my temper at my little ones whose biggest crime was childishness. In my desperation to change, I cried out to God for help.
Looking back, I see many ways the Lord answered those prayers. The most important lesson I learned was to change my thinking. I used to tell my husband, “This is just how I am. I can not change!” However, I found verses in the Bible like James 1:19 which says, Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. After yet another explosion I would pray, “God, please teach me how to be quick to listen, and help me to be slow to speak and show me how to be slow to become angry.”
Gradually, as I cried out to God, meditated on James 1:19 and memorized other scriptures about “getting rid of anger,” I began to change. One of the most powerful passages I clung to was Colossians 3:5-9. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature...You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage...since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
At first, the words I had memorized came to mind AFTER I lost my temper. I would apologize to my precious children AGAIN. And I would seek the Lord’s forgiveness, asking Him to change me, to help me to take off the old, to put on the new and to renew my knowledge to be more like Him.
Thankfully, God heard my prayers. The more His word got into my heart, the more it changed my thinking and transformed my life. I began to overcome my angry outbursts and was victorious over my fits of rage. Instead of God’s word coming to mind after I lost my temper, it began to guard my actions before hand. Then, I had the opportunity to choose to do it my old sinful way or to follow God’s good, best and righteous way.
Of course, I never got it down perfectly! No parent does. But as I sincerely sought God’s transformation in my life, He was faithful to answer my prayers, to teach me His ways and to show me His plan. And, along the way, I learned other other things that triggered my temper, contributed to my anger and needed to be changed. (I guess those will have to be posts for another day) So, as I close, I offer my prayers for you on your parenting journey. I hope to hear from you and please feel free to share my blog if you know of someone it might bless or encourage as well.