As I was typing up my last post and reflecting on the rotten attitude I had begun my day with, a metaphor fell into my lap, so I thought I would share it with you.
On Tuesday we made play dough. I found a recipe that claimed it was the "best, squishiest play dough ever," and that it was "way better than that stuff you buy in the store." I had all of the ingredients on hand so we set to work. I put a big pot and a wooden spoon in front of each child. We dumped in the ingredients and stirred it up. I finished it on the stove and turned it out on the countertop to cool. The instructions said to then knead it a few times and hand it over to the kids for some good fun. This is where I ran into trouble. When I began to knead the play dough it stuck to the palm of my hands. When I tried to scrape it off it stuck to my fingers. I thought maybe it just needed a little more time to cool so I put it into the refrigerator and waited about 5 minutes. Without trying it out again I handed the play dough balls to the kids. Approximately 3 seconds later all six little hands were transformed into mutant stubs of sticky, gooey play dough. Their entire hands were covered, and the more they tried to free themselves the more they became one with the play dough.
At first it was funny, and we joked about how it is sometimes fun to get messy. But then they started to get frustrated and I began to wonder if I had done something wrong. Could this really be what was referred to as the best play dough ever? So I glanced back over the recipe and the word jumped out at me. I had missed an ingredient. Salt.
As it turns out, the salt is what keeps the play dough sticking to itself and not to your kids tiny hands, and noses, and shoes, and the wall... Salt is pretty important. I tried to fix my mistake by flattening out each dough ball. Pouring on the required amount of salt and kneading it in. The result was pretty good, but not perfect. The dough felt a little grainy and rough, not smooth as promised. I can only assume this is because had I followed the instructions correctly the salt would have absorbed into the other ingredients in the heat on the stove.
Earlier that morning I woke up with the distinct feeling that I wanted some time off from being mommy, though I didn't think of it in exactly those terms. It was more subtle. Things like I think I'll take a shower first thing instead of putting breakfast out, and I'd really like to sit and read a little, I wish the kids would just stay in their rooms and play, and why can't it ever be quiet around this house? I can't go 30 seconds without some small child letting out an ear-piercing scream over no big thing. I didn't want to put them first, I didn't want to take the time to discipline and correct in love. I gave into my selfishness and lost self-control with my words and tone. I can't recall exactly what I said, rather yelled. But I'm sure it was not at all beneficial seeing as how when it was all said and done I had two small children cowering with tears streaming down their faces. I had forgotten something. Salt.
At first I tried to justify myself, If they would just obey I wouldn't yell, they know I love them but they have to learn. The more I tried to justify my sin, the stickier I became. I could not free myself from the guilt and shame of losing control and crushing my boys whom I love to pieces. So then I tried to fix my mistake by pouring the salt on all at once. I told them I loved them, that mommy shouldn't yell, that they are special. But it wasn't the same as if I had put the salt in from the get go. Adding salt would have meant kneeling to their level, making eye contact, lowering my voice, and giving clear directions. Salt prevents tears, builds up hearts, encourages obedience, corrects gently, glorifies God. Salt is pretty important.
It is said that every metaphor breaks down somewhere and thankfully this one does too. There was really no going back from my play dough mistake. I would have had to start all over beginning with new ingredients. Not so with us. By God's grace, I looked at my broken children, wiped the tears from their eyes and said the words that smoothed out my sticky mess. Mommy is sorry. Mommy is a sinner and did not have self-control. Do you forgive me? Of course they said yes. And then we went on to pray.
Father God, We come to confess our sins to you. Mommy is a sinner who lost self-control. Mommy deserves death and punishment for her sin. Thank you so much that there is forgiveness through your son, Jesus. Thank you that He died instead and that I can come to you covered in His goodness. Please redeem my mistake, show Bear and Little Dude that they are sinners too and that Jesus is for them if they believe in him. Help mommy to have better self-control. For your glory and in Jesus' name. Amen.
As if it were by magic, but really so much more, the faces of my kids were bright again, their hearts restored. God can do in our hearts and lives what could not be done with the play dough. He makes us new.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us Ephesians 1:7-8a