If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you know that I am pretty open about my struggles. One of the areas that I struggle with the most is being too harsh and angry with my kids.
A while ago, I wrote about my journey in this area in a post called “Overcoming Harshness With My Kids“. If you wrestle with this as well, I recommend you read that post. You will know that you are not alone and find a lot of useful tools and resources. I am still using them and they really do help.
However, I’ve learned a secret since then that none of those tools and resources come close to.
Overcoming Anger: When Change Really Happens
Not the sleeping kind, although that helps.
I mean resting in His faithfulness.
Resting in who I am in Christ and how God sees me.
Resting in the truth of God’s character.
Now before you click away with a sigh that says “oh great she’s going all fluffy spiritual on me”… just hang with me for a minute. Because I really mean this and it’s really true.
When I wrote that post, I had the right perspective, the right approach, great tools and resources, and a great faith in God to transform me.
I kept working and working and praying and praying… scrambling, really. I was always trying to do better and be better. I sought help, I sought counsel and wisdom, I prayed and humbled myself before God.
But you know what? It didn’t get better. It got worse.
About a month ago I went on my annual personal prayer retreat. I am blessed to have found a lovely private guest house in the hills nearby and an amazing woman named Jean who listens to and counsels me before my overnight stay. (If you live in the Portland area I can give you the contact info for this amazing ministry.)
This time, when I showed up at her house, I knew exactly what I’d talk about.
You see, my internal struggle with anger and frustration usually leaks out in bad moments as harshness in tone and attitude. Can you relate?
Just a few days before my retreat, I took a turn for the worse. I was becoming a yeller. And my words were becoming bitter and even close to mean. Not that I was saying bad words or calling names – but I was starting to say things like “I don’t care”, “just stop talking” or “knock it off”. And the words were even less harsh than the tone.
My heart was breaking. The look on my kids’ faces was so painful to see.
I felt sick inside, and my thoughts went this way: “What is going on??? Why can’t I get better? I know God can change me – He’s done it before! What am I doing wrong? I want His transformation. Oh God, what if I just keep getting worse!?!”
Whispering behind those thoughts was the fear that God and I weren’t how I thought we were. I’m ashamed how easily I begin to doubt.
I felt defeated and hopeless.
I poured out my heart to Jean and just sobbed and sobbed. And God gave her the words I needed to hear.
She said “I think you really need to stop working so hard on yourself.”
I raised an eyebrow and was *this* close to writing her off entirely, when she said something that sunk in deep…
…Sometimes God’s transformation comes in a round about way. Sometimes He changes our hearts through the back door while we’re striving for the direct path.
In all my obedience and diligence, there was still a shred in me that thought “If I… Then God will…”
Deep down, it was still all about me and my own efforts.
During that conversation and the time of prayer and reflection afterward, I somehow found true surrender. Or more accurately, it was given to me. I spent that precious time focusing on three things:
- Resting in His love: How often do we simply rest in how much God loves us just as we are? We are His daughters! His special treasures!
- Resting in His faithfulness: He will continue His work in us. There is no hopelessness. His faithfulness to us and our children is more powerful than any weakness we have.
- Resting in Truth: No lie has power over the truth of God. Pointing ourselves and others (espeically our kids) to God at all times will keep us in His truth.
Knowing I’m a book person, Jean suggested I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts and start a list of thanksgiving. I’ve had it for a while but shelved it, thinking “oh, I’m a thankful person!”
But it really has changed my daily vision. I just see better now. Directing all my big and little thoughts to God can change us in that round-about way.
But even before I started doing anything, the rest from that retreat has been carried over. God has somehow caused it to sink in deep and become a part of me – not perfection, but definitely less frustration and more joy.
I know lots of moms struggle with this like I do. And even though I know everyone’s journey is different, I wish I had a nice tidy list or free printable to help you (and I) be free of anger and frustration. Full of gentleness and peace.
But I don’t.
I’m going to be honest: I’m afraid this won’t last and I’ll go back to being Angry Mom. But even in the face of those ups and downs which will inevitably come, I am thankful that He took the time to root out that bit of “I can do it myself” pride. Thankful for the rest I can find only in Him.
I am thankful for His faithfulness.
If you struggle with frustration, anger, or harshness with your kids, PLEASE let me know in a comment or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would be honored to pray for you, because I know how hard it is.