Note 1: I could play with my son for 23 hours in a row, and he would spend the 24th hour asking, “Mommy, will you come play with me?”
Note 2: I was most definitely speaking in a HUFFY tone as I spoke to my son in the exchange below.
Note 3: huff·y (adjective): annoyed or irritated and quick to take offense at petty things
Note 4: Caden responded to my HUFFY tone with the most gentle, kind response EVER…the kind of response that makes you want to punch your huffy tone in the face.
Commence the exchange:
Me: Caden, you asked me to come play with you, but you aren’t playing. I’m not going to just sit here while you watch me play. If you want me to play, then play.
Caden: But Mommy, I am. I’m watching you play so I learn how to play with my trains.
As I type these words and replay that moment in time, my eyes are still clouded with tears.
His words hit my ears and heart like a pile of bricks.
Apart from the fact that I was reckless and impatient with my tone (something I am continuously battling), I completely overlooked the possibility that my son desires more than just a playmate.
He wants to watch me.
He is learning from watching me.
For goodness sake, he is imitating me.
And the weight of that realization is both humbling and terrifying all at the same time.
im·i·tate (verb): take or follow as a model; to copy, follow, emulate
Maybe if I was the perfect “fruit of the spirit mom” whose actions and words were always characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then maybe I WOULD be super pumped and ever- delighted to have my children imitate me.
But I’m not.
Imperfect is the word that best characterizes my love.
My joy can easily be squelched by a spill or a screaming baby.
Peace? Is that the same thing as quiet?
Is it possible for my patience to be thinner than ice?
No one warned me how difficult it is to be kind to a tantrum-throwing three year-old.
Is badness a word because I’m probably better at that than goodness?
I am faithfully good at serving my own interests.
Gentleness is hardly my middle name–just ask my family and friends!
I only wish I exemplified half of the self-control I ask our son to demonstrate.
Suffice to say…
I fail. I’m flawed.
I fall. I’m broken.
I’m super good at consistently being imperfect.
And if I linger on all the many ways I’m not the best soul for my children to watch, copy, and learn from, well…then I kind of freak out and forget about grace. And when I become fearful and forget about grace, well, I lose sight of the ONLY ONE who is worth IMITATING.
We are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Penned by Paul in Ephesians 5:1)
Paul? PAUL!? Do I remember who Paul was!?!?
For goodness sake, this Paul was the very same man who spent a majority of his early life breathing murderous threats and persecuting God’s people. And if it hadn’t been for a divine intervention that left him blind, broken, and scared out of his mind on the side of the road, he may have spent the sum-total of his life destroying God’s children.
But Paul knew he fell terribly short in his reflection of Christ. In fact, Paul says of himself, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” -1 Timothy 1:15
And though Paul took his imitation of Jesus very seriously (even unto death), he knew he was NEVER EVER to be the focal point.
And neither am I.
My children don’t need to see me; they need to see Jesus.
In all my brokenness and in all my mess, they simply need to see HIM and HIS GRACE shining through the brokenness of me.
So as I sat at my kitchen table this week with my head in my hands, a lump in my chest, and tears running down my face, I uttered a simple and yet desperate plea (one that I imagine will be repeated many times over)…
“Lord, please let them see YOU in the mess of me.”