This day did not start out like a normal day. It actually started out as a rather terrible day. It was the day that Ben was coming home from a trip, which usually means it’s a day that is both exciting and awful all at once. Exciting because, obviously, Daddy’s finally coming home and the kids are bonkers, elated and otherwise screaming with joy. It is awful because time moves at its slowest speed and since we are all so excited our faces hurt from smiling, sometimes patience wears thin and tempers flare as we march through the day until he finally gets home.
Today was just such a day, except today started with one of my children, I won’t implicate them here, informing my still closed eyelids that there was potty on the couch while still dripping with it on the carpet in front of my bed. I flew out of bed to find indeed a soaking wet child as well as a drenched couch. Not only is Daddy coming home, now he is coming home to a pee-soaked former-favorite spot to sit.
Needless to say, I was not amused. I think my patience was forgotten in bed, probably still with my sleepy eyes and my temper was shorter than the coffee I had not yet drunk. With each paper towel, every squirt of any deodorizer I could get my hands on, and towel soiled, my heart hardened. The whole house smelled, breakfast still had to be made, children clothed and we had someplace to be by 10am. Oh, and I needed coffee. Badly.
Children truly are incredible in their ability to move on. The offending party was appropriately contrite, said all the right words and gave lots of hugs. They steered clear for a few minutes, recognizing that Mom was in rather a state. But only for a few minutes. Then, they were back to their happy-go-lucky selves, asking for extra juice and asking me to find a missing toy for them as if I wasn’t up to my elbows in pee and all manner of cleaners, almost desperate enough for a clothespin on my nose. Rather than being inspired by their uplifting attitude, it only fueled my stony heart.
I was turning into one of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark. They had just witnessed Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish and now were looking across the sea to find Jesus walking to them in the midst of a storm. Mark says they were “astounded.” But at the same time, their hearts were hardened because they did not understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.
Jesus was trying to soften my heart through the cheerful attitudes of my children. Instead, I gave him the cold shoulder.
My mood, predictably, did not improve on its own. I needed some serious help. And thank goodness, I got it. We were driving to our morning event when Rosie asked to listen to the Vacation Bible School music that the kids had just finished that week. If it kept the car quiet and peaceful I was all for it so I turned it on, fading it to the back of course so that such uplifting, happy music wouldn’t influence my sour disposition (because who would want that? Clearly, I was stuck).
Then, very faintly, I heard the singing. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw John singing along to the song playing. Rosie quickly joined him. The next song they added some hand motions and even Clare tried to keep up, clapping and giggling. Slowly, my stony heart was melting. These beautiful, simple children, were praising God to the greatest of their abilities. They were filling the car with joy and adoration. Who was I to stand in the face of that worship, fold my arms and turn up my nose? Who was I to hold onto a grudge that I had to serve my family that morning, even if it was at a time not of my choosing or a task I was particularly fond of? I had been given an opportunity to serve my family with love, patience and and joy. I utterly failed on all counts.
The sweet joyful singing of my children brought me back to reality, sufficiently humbled and sorrowful for the example I had given them. Instead of seeing an opportunity to demonstrate love, I displayed petty anger, frustration and a general yucky attitude. And so I joined in their song, letting all those negative emotions ebb away as I allowed myself to be graced by their song. In those few moments my heart of stone was being melted away and replaced with a softened one capable of seeing God working in our day once again.
I’m not going to say the rest of the day was perfect, because of course it wasn’t. But it was better, so much better than if I had hung onto that stony heart rather than embracing a humbled, soft one.