My boys have been faithfully praying for little Ava just as I wrote in my last post. However, there are times when I ask myself, how can my sweet prayer warriors turn into such cold-hearted meanies?! Just keeping it real, people. Following the most recent incident, I had them each pick out two of their best performing stuffed animals for a post-dinner play entitled “Love Your Neighbor.” The title elicited tragic groans from my older son who can sniff out my ABC Afterschool Special attempts like a bloodhound. After handing me the thespian fur balls, the boys sat on the couch with their Pepero sticks dessert ready for the show.
Poor Perry the bald eagle got beaten up and robbed. Ribbit the tree frog knew Perry from high school, was his Facebook friend and knew his family but rushed on by the roadkill-looking eagle. Gator the alligator went to Copper Pointe Church with Perry but had to rush by poor Perry to get to Bible study on time. Finally, Orcky the orca whale saw Perry from a distance. Despite having to leave his comfortable home in the ocean, the friendly killer (friendly killer?) whale went out of his way to help what he would usually want to consume for dinner. Even though they were rivals like the Packers and Bears, Orcky spent a lot of whale money to put Perry in a hotel. He asked the manager to make sure Perry got great medical care again paid for by hard-earned whale money. (This was before Obamacare.)
The audience was able to debrief Act 1 fairly well. They knew Orcky was best at loving his neighbor and why. They were even moved to share some of their Pepero sticks with me at intermission. Then came Act 2. I tried to be like Nathan who confronted David of his wrongdoing with such a powerful analogy that David was moved to righteous anger about his own acts and then to rightful repentance before God. I reenacted one of their bad behaviors that cut my mommy heart in two. In the end, I would like to say that the boys were moved to tears, vowing never to be mean again. I would like to say that their fleshly nature eroded so that only angelic holiness was left as a result of my fine puppetry. Truth be told, Ethan covered his head with the blanket and followed all my debriefing questions with silly answers like “2 times 3 is 6” when I was looking for something more along the lines of a Golden Rule recitation.
Before they could escape the mommy torture chamber, I was able to have a moment of serious conversation. We did talk about the treating others like we would want to be treated. I did say that I know they can be heart-smart because I see it when they pray for others or when they share their beloved Pepero sticks. But when they say things that hurt people or hoard things that are meant to be shared, they make me and God sad. Their mama and their God love it when they make heart-smart decisions. For once, there was not a single groan and that to me was like a standing ovation.
I do not know if the dreaded mom talks sink into the depths of their forming character. In those moments of trying, I have to believe that they have some seedling effect even if I am unable to see any fruit for now. After all, I remember groaning when my mom tried to have family devotionals in my childhood. In fact, being responsible for the majority of her gray hairs makes me think my kids’ whining, bad attitudes, and selfish actions are well-deserved pay back.
Of course it makes my heart happy when the boys display genuinely sweet behavior. Yet even in the pain of witnessing their human nature at its worst, I still see them with love that knows no bounds. That love never changes even in the most defiant moments. That love propels me to poorly performed puppet plays and mom talks that I know will be greeted with groans. What comforts me in my own shortcomings of living as I should is the realization of His divine unconditional love that surpasses my earthly mother’s heart. Love keeps working and believing. It may seem (very) hard at times to see, but I do see future boys who will love with abundant empathy that reflects the Father. They may forever struggle with living beyond their own wants and desires and continually toil with the difficult task of loving others. Yet there will be more and more times when they overcome and feel the truth that every selfless moment is worth it. When that happens, every stinking gray hair on my head will have been more than worth it.