Becoming a parent for the first time seemed to invite much unsolicited advice on just about every topic of child rearing, from feeding and sleeping to, of course, discipline...and having heard so much in particular about those dreaded "Terrible Two's", I remember feeling mildly apprehensive as Dylan's second birthday approached. My precocious little boy was certainly a handful at that time, but nothing near the terror I had feared. Truth be told, I recall thinking (rather smugly, it must be said), "Is that all there is to those Terrible Two's?!" He was hyper, sure, and certainly inquisitive (and so remains to this day), but a sweet, snuggly little angel just the same.
I should have known my luck wouldn't last. My very strong willed daughter challenges and defies me on a daily basis. She's an instigator and champion tantrum thrower. And she is stubborn! So stubborn, in fact, that she will actually choose to stay in her room, screaming and crying, rather than come out and apologize for any wrongdoing. A few days ago, in an effort to cheer her up after scolding her for misbehaving, I said "Look, Caitlyn, we're watching Clifford! Come apologize and you can watch it with us!". Unrelenting were her tears, though, and in her room she stayed. Long after her favorite show had ended, she emerged and began wailing anew: "But I wanted to watch Clifford!!!"
"Sweetie", I told her, "we asked you to come watch it with us. All you had to do was apologize. But now Clifford's over. You missed it because you weren't being nice." She stayed in her room for a good long while after that, mad at me for making her miss Clifford. And honestly, I was beginning to feel like quite the mean Mommy. I took a long hard look that day at how she's been behaving lately (or rather, misbehaving).
"Why won't she listen?!" I lamented yet again to Darren that night. "Am I asking too much? Are my expectations that unreasonable?"
Today (while she was sleeping, and I could actually peacefully, prayerfully reflect on the matter some more) I was thinking about how difficult she can be, how she sometimes tries my patience to its very limits. I was thinking of how hurt I often feel, and how I fear I'm failing as her mother because there are some days I just can't seem to get through to her...no matter what I try. And then it occurred to me: might this be exactly how Jesus feels about us? Must it not just break His heart to see how we, in our stubborn, childish ways, so often turn from Him, locking ourselves away from His love? And it was in this line of thinking that I had an epiphany of sorts: my Caitlyn Grace may also very well by my saving grace.
Because, you see, it's easy for me to love Caitlyn when she's being sweet and obedient. It is sometimes very difficult, however, to feel very loving when she has been at her absolute worst all day long.
Yet it is not so for us.
Jesus loves us so much, all the time, and desires for us to be happy and pleasing to Him. He loves us perfectly, unconditionally, and without exception. So, too, must I love and cherish my temperamental little girl, even when it's hard, even when my first inclination might be anger at her disobedience. In all my frustrations, in all my despair, I will bring my troubles to Jesus, and trust that He will teach me how to love with His perfect love. Through all my trials with Caitlyn, I just may find the way.