Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Love: The More Excellent Way, Part 2

Love is patient and kind ... (1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV)

Thursday night was the end of a couple of really trying days in my household. My wife was very ill, and I stayed home from work to take care of my son while she rested. He is extremely particular about many things, especially his daily routine. One of the things he insists on is that milk goes in a bottle, not a sippy. Sippy's are for water. He'll even drink the milk from a regular plastic straw as long as it is in a bottle. Crazy kid. :)

We've been trying to get him to drink his milk from a sippy off and on for a little while now. We even got a different color one so that he could understand that red is for water and yellow is for milk. I decided to try again Thursday with his normal bottle after nap. He didn't want it, so no big deal, I put it in the fridge for later. Come bed time, which is usually about quarter-past-cranky, I just grabbed the milk sippy from the fridge and tried to get him to take that again, not even really thinking about it. He refused again and got really upset. I knew that he was just being stubborn, so I thought I could patiently work through it with him. I was wrong.

At one point, my wife brought me a bottle and insisted that I use that instead. She told me, "He has a routine at bedtime, and you need to follow it. Right now you are just being mean." Even then, it was more than he could handle. He was in full volume, full tilt meltdown mode. I had to put him in his bed and let him calm down for a few minutes before he would even take his bottle. My wife and I talked it over a bit afterwards, and she was very gracious towards me.

The next morning, I was listening to Alistair Begg like I always do, and he was at his point in the series where he addressed 1 Corinthians 13:4. I felt awful. I knew in that moment that not only were my actions wrong, they were unloving towards my son because they were unkind.

There's a fine line between patience and stubbornness, and I believe the key to identifying where that line is in any given situation is kindness. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being patient with my son's bad behavior and started insisting on my own way. At that point, I was the one being stubborn who needed to relent, though I couldn't see it.

The next day, when I got home from work, my beautiful boy came sprinting down the hallway with the biggest grin on his face. Daddy was home! And though I knew at 17 months he had no way of really understanding what I was saying, I took him into his room, sat him on my knee, and apologized for being so unkind towards him. It is something my wife and I intend to model for him throughout his childhood. We want him to understand that there is only one perfectly loving Father, that his Mama and Daddy are just as imperfect and sinful as he is. By God's grace, he will see those mistakes and learn as much from them as we do, just from a different perspective.

Identifying a lack of patience is generally pretty easy for me, this example notwithstanding. But a lack of kindness? I didn't even see that until God showed it to me the next day through that teaching. Are you the source of grief and pain for another individual? Is that grief and pain necessary? Sometimes it may be, but I would bet that those times are fewer and further between than most of us realize. Do you see someone in troubled times who could use a helping hand? In both of these cases, kindness is the answer.