Rummaging through a rack of baby clothes at Wal-mart, I glanced up as a woman with several small children hanging from her cart walked by. It was hard NOT to notice her. One child jumped off the cart and hid from her, a second was screaming, as the third, a toddler, sat chewing on the bananas his mother intended to purchase. The exhausted mother suddenly reached her limit, and she began yelling at all three children. Shoppers turned their heads, trying to see what the commotion was all about. I turned away disdainfully, and continued to search for the perfect outfit for my firstborn to wear home from the hospital.
Rubbing my growing abdomen, I mentally patted myself on the back in advance. “Thank you, Lord!” I prayed, “I know I will never be a mother like that!”
Several weeks later, the doctor lay baby Tyler in my arms. I immediately determined that I wouldnever raise my voice at this “perfect” little piece of mankind. He was so wonderful, and I couldn’t wait to be the kind of mommy I had always dreamed of. Fun, kind, patient, understanding, loving… The list went on and on.
But oh, how wrong I was!
As the babies kept coming, piles of laundry, ringing phones, messy pampers, spilled milk, and tired, whiny voices, all contributed to tying this young mother up in knots. I’d heard it said that to pray for patience, is to ask for a trial that requires the virtue. I decided that I would heed this advice and not ask God for patience. I had enough problems already, why ask for more? Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until I found myself becoming more and more like the frazzled mother whom I had despised. What was I to do?
Knowing better than to pray for patience, I decided to focus on Scripture. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold…” I would remind myself while filling my mop bucket. Then, ten minutes later, I was once more yelling at my children as muddy shoes crossed my freshly scrubbed floor. Already the impatience and frustration had found its way back to into my spirit.
One day, a wonderful idea struck!
“Sing! Yes, I will sing! Raising my voice in praise will surely drive my impatience away!” I decided. Sorting through the catalog of hymns in my mind, I remembered a favorite from long ago.
“Set a watch ‘ore my mouth,” I sang, “and keep the door of my lips. Lord, teach me to bridle my tongue, the way that You…”
Suddenly, a loud CRASH interrupted my heartfelt singing!
Whirling around, I saw 2 year old Amy had fallen off her chair, spilling a glass of water all over the floor.
“Amy Nichole!” I shrieked loudly, “What are doing? Can’t you be more careful!?” Immediately, the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience, and I realized how sadly humorous the whole scene was. Wiping up the water in silence, I felt defeated. Would I ever learn patience?
Through the next couple of days, my impatience with my children kept running through my mind. I did not want my children to grow up with an impatient mother. I didn’t allow them to lose their temper, yet here I was failing in that very area.
One morning as I was having my quiet time with God, I was thinking about the day ahead. I had so much to do that day and I knew that I would probably let the stress get to me somewhere between… well… making beds and… eating breakfast! Knowing what I could be getting myself into, I bowed my head.
“Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “I am so impatient with my kids. I don’t want to be like this. Please, help me today, and…uhmm…well…uh…” Swallowing hard, I plunged ahead, “give me patience. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
“Well, here we go!” I thought. “This could be an interesting day!”
After starting the laundry, I could hear the children beginning to wake up. Just as I was headed up the stairs to kiss them “good morning,” the phone rang. Running to answer it, I could hear Amy crying at the top of her lungs.
“Oh great, now she’s going to wake up the baby!” I moaned.
Answering the telephone, I talked with my mother for a couple of minutes, but as the volume increased upstairs, I informed mom that I would talk to her later.
With a determined step, I headed up the stairs, where I found Amy screaming in her room. We had been gone over the weekend, and Amy was extremely tired. Trying to decide whether to send her back to bed, dress her, or punish her, I caught a whiff of a foul odor.
“Oh,” I groaned. I had forgotten that she had thrown-up in her car seat the night before. Having arrived home late, my husband, Tim and I simply cleaned her up the best we could and stuck her in bed.
Carrying the wailing child to the bathroom, I soon had the bath water running.
“No, no, no, no,” she yelled over and over.
Strangely, I noticed that while Amy was hollering loud enough to wake the dead, I was still feeling a sense of heavenly peace.
“Amy, be quiet.” I reprimanded. But she continued to cry. Before putting her in the tub, I lifted her onto the toilet.
“Go potty, Amy.” I said.
“No, no, no,” she continued to wail.
Turning back to the tub, I added some bubbles and a few toys. In that instant, Amy hopped off the toilet, and soon there was what every mommy dreads. A little puddle forming around her ankles.
“No, Amy!” I again responded, still with this ethereal peace surrounding me. “You may not act like that!” Placing her once more on the toilet, I stepped over the puddle to find something to clean up the mess.
Downstairs I grabbed the mop. As I headed back to the bathroom, I noticed a leak coming from under the washer, heard the dryer buzzing, tripped over a football helmet lying on the kitchen floor, and stumbled up the stairs once more where Amy continued to cry the cry of a thoroughly exhausted and angry child. As I turned the corner into the bathroom, Amy saw me and lunged forward, falling off the potty, and landed face down in the very puddle I was intending to clean up.
“That should do it, God.” I cried out desperately. “I’m catching on!”
Yes, God was teaching me patience! But through it all, He helped me! He wasn’t throwing problems at me, and leaving me on my own. Where once I would have felt a knot of frustration growing bigger and bigger in my stomach, I was, instead, experiencing peace, sweet peace.
I still had the regular (and a few irregular) day-to-day frustrations, but my impatience was gone. I found it interesting that several days before, I had snapped over a cup of spilled WATER, but today, felt at peace over a screaming child, broken appliances, and messes on the bathroom floor.
As I crawled into bed that night, I told my husband, Tim, about the events of the day. “I’m not afraid to pray for patience anymore,” I told him. “I would much rather be a mother who stays calm when everything is going wrong, than to lose my temper over every little irritation.”
Rolling over, I added, “You know what? I think... I think I’ll pray for patience again tomorrow!”
©Lynette Carpenter 2006