Matthew 11:28-30 "Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” A couple days ago, my favorite little toddler sprinkled and then dumped powdered sugar like it was fairy dust all over the kitchen floor. Then, her little feet went tracking it throughout the house. I immediately began to clean it up…I could only imagine how sticky the floor would be if I didn't do a thorough job. But I was interrupted by the four word siren "I HAD.. IT... FIRST." Then BOOM by the time I turned the corner of our small galley kitchen…. Tinker Bell was plastered to floor as tears mixed with powered sugar came drizzling down her rounded cheeks. The older of the two stood in a hunched position, using her back to shield the loot that she had so valiantly protected. Ahhhhh a gentle response? Oh sure my tone was gentle….my words….somewhat carefully chosen. But I am going to be honest...this particular time I may have been communicating with a tablespoon of "fake gentle tone" and a teaspoon of talking between my teeth. I needed a heart check. Because [He is] “humble and gentle at heart” Although you may be in a different parenting stage than I am, one thing many of us have in common is the daily… interruptions. Yet, with a shift in perspective, birthed out of a humble heart, we can instead see these “interruptions” as opportunities to impart to our children the love of Christ through a gentle response. I love how in Matthew 11:29 Jesus says, “I am humble and gentle at heart.” Not just humble and gentle, but humble and gentle at heart. True biblical gentleness is not something we have to muster up, but should be lived out overflowing from our hearts. As we experience Christ’s long suffering for us, we will be able to pour that same selflessness toward our children. “Let me teach you” So, how do we live that life dependent on the Holy Spirit and respond to our children with genuine gentleness? Especially when our buttons are pushed and our sleep is….oh you know pretty much non-existent...I am so glad that in Mathew 11:29 Jesus says, “Let me teach you.” He knows that without Him we miss the bar of perfection. Thompson and Fitzpatrick’s book "Give them Grace" says that our job as parents “is not just hard, it’s impossible. It is at those moments, when we’re struck dumb by our failure and unbelief and brokenly fall on our knees before him, that his promised grace is most powerful in us.” Christ simply wants us to come to Him for “His yoke is easy and his burden is light” Mathew 11:30. Christ in us is REAL-His truth, His divine appointments, His gentleness in us can transform the lives of our children and the way they view Christ. When we tap into His grace, His mercy, and His promises, we begin to have an eternal impact that can only be accomplished by our willingness to be taught by the great Teacher!
G.E.N.T.L.E Here are six action steps that I feel like God has been teaching me on how to live out of gentle heart towards my children. G: Give up Your Rights. My agenda, my goals, my selfish ambition steals the gentleness right out of my heart. “Lord what is your plan today? Help me to see opportunities instead of interruptions.” This prayer is a game changer for my spirit. E: Enter into His Courts with Praise. Psalm 100:4 Praising throughout the day invites His goodness to become active in in our minds and hearts. Our perspective towards our children and our circumstances begins to shift as we step into our situation with gratitude on the forefront of our minds. N: Note the Good ThingsProverbs 15:1-2 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. When Christ looks at us, He sees us as righteous, pure, and beloved. We need to approach our children with words of life. How are we speaking and calling out their identity in Christ? How can we admonish them? T: Take Time with GodLuke 10:42 "There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” The time we spend with God is eternal and it will not be taken away from us. I have found it is so hard to find time in the mornings to be by myself, so I give each girl a journal and I journal away to the Lord until the girls have lost interest. Usually, I have time to read and write a verse, jot a couple prayers, and write down several things I am thankful for. My oldest daughter even says her prayers out loud as she “journals.” While, it may not be long, I have a verse to meditate on for the rest of the day. L: Let Christ Lead I remember kneeling down beside my oldest daughter, crying out to the Lord, searching for what to say to address the issue at hand. My daughter’s eyes were sheepishly staring at the floor. Knowing that she had made the wrong choice, she was awaiting my response. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I held her gently and said "I love you no matter what." Not just "I love you," she hears that from me a million times day. But, "I love you no matter what." I proceeded to tell her that I am able to love her that way because that is the way that God loves us….no matter what. The Lord knew exactly what she needed to hear. My sweet daughter lifted her head with confidence and said to me "really no matter what"? The Lord used these words to minister to my daughter in the midst of discipline, in a way that I really have no words to explain. Thank you Lord for your Spirit! E: Engage in asking forgiveness. Many times I have failed at responding to my daughters in a gentle tone. But, the good news is we can also speak gentleness through our willingness to ask our children to forgive us when we have communicated harshly or made a mistake. Sometimes, this can be the best model of humility.....to get down on your child’s eye level, gently touch his/her shoulder and say, "Mommy/Daddy was wrong.....I should have asked Jesus to help me respond to you in gentleness, but I was selfish.....will your forgive me?" Taking the time to do this with your child, no matter how small the offense allows for scales of confusion and hurt to fall off quickly and for hearts to heal.
Anne Marie Vaughan is an ESOL teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools and a stay at home mom. She, her husband Jon, and their two daughters attend NCC’s Potomac Yard Campus.