This morning my daughter posted this on Facebook: Why is it that your kids don’t seem to hear you unless your yelling at them, but then they give you that pouty face that makes you feel sick for having yelled at them so they’d finally listen?! Being a parent sucks!
I will admit that my first thought was to smile, thinking of all the yelling I did when she was my strong willed always right closed minded child. We raise them to be independent and have opinions. We just don’t realize that they’re going to develop those so early and with such strength.
Reading her post got me thinking about my own childhood. My mother wasn’t a yeller. That’s not to say she couldn’t—I received my share of loud scoldings. My mother had three other weapons in her arsenal that often left me wishing she was a yeller. First, she was the master (perhaps even the inventor) of “the look.” No word needed to be spoken; message received loud and clear: cease or die. What was most amazing to me was when she used it on other kids at stores or other public places and they got the message too!
The second tool that my mother relied on was action. We knew that mom would not hesitate to use whatever was at hand or just her hand to make her point. This resulted in my brother getting konked on the head the telephone receiver when was making too much noise while she was on the phone (phone calls were typically fewer and much more important back in the day). Hair brushes, yardsticks, and those stupid paddle ball paddles—looking back I now see why she was always willing to give into that childish indulgence as we checked out at the store. You think we might have put that together better.
But the most effective tool in my mother’s parental arsenal was silence. Silence typically conveyed one of two messages, both extreme. She was either extremely disappointed or so angry that if she said anything she would have exploded. This final weapon was so powerful that it always got our attention and resulted in our praying for the silence to end.
As I am writing this, I am on the mend from a very weird and pain-filled three weeks. I progressed from swollen feet to extremely swollen feet and ankles and pain while walking to nodules all over my legs and arms and in my joints (elbows, wrists, fingers, knees, ankles toes), to fevers and shakes. I’ve had so many blood tests, I feel like a pin cushion—the very nice woman in the outpatient check-in knows me by name. I had a punch biopsy. Standing was so painful. At times I admit I just melted into tears. And I just couldn’t shake the thought: what if this is as good as it gets? I believe in healing, but I know that God doesn’t remove every infirmity.
Now, I realize that my suffering was probably very light compared to others. But it was mine and for a relatively active and healthy person this was intense and scary. Perhaps the was the worst: not knowing what was going on and not knowing how long it would continue.
Getting quiet with God this morning, thinking about my daughter’s post and my pain, I found myself thinking about the times I cried out to God these past few weeks. I began to feel like Malachai: how long, God? Silence. I wanted to be angry, to decry what seemed so unfair. But I couldn’t. Because somewhere in the silence there was a drawing…a calling…a voice…trust me.
At first I thought my pain was God “screaming” at me, me the errant, disobedient child. Punishing. Then it seemed more like a “smack” of sorts to get my attention. But each of those fell short. All my experiences with the silent messages from my mother were good for one thing for sure: they taught me to listen, listen hard, and listen long—for the answer is always there in the silence. At least it has been for me.
But like I said, I appear to be on the upswing. Maybe that’s why Job didn’t curse God when his wife suggested it. She wasn’t evil, she just ached to watch him suffer, and was suffering herself. Hope dies hard. Even if the pain I was suffering was going to be my friend for the rest of the journey, I would have adapted…somehow. And I know that God would have been with me. That was the kind of answer that Malachi got. God let the prophet know that he wasn’t going to like the answer to his question because God was going to use his enemy to bring about His purpose. It was the same message for Jeremiah (read ALL of Jeremiah 29).
I don’t know how it goes for you, but I tend to struggle with trying to fix and control. Trust doesn’t always come easy, but I usually get there. Just like when I was a child. Just like when I dealt with my own children. Sometimes learning is hard, as my daughter is finding. Parenting, too. Just ask God.