Many years ago, when Joel, (my wonderful composer son), was a little boy, he played legos for hours a day. He would design elaborate cars, towns, houses, roadways, playgrounds--whatever he could imagine. We all admired his skill. When he was 9 years old, he worked for months and months on a town that became an elaborate creation, around 5 feet wide. On top of this he placed some of his best car designs. We all marveled at each stage of development of his wonderful creation. One day we hosted a new family for lunch. When Joel took the boy his age back to his room to play, the little boy rushed into the room and began hitting and destroying the whole of Joel's creation before we could pull him away. The devastation was complete and broke the hearts of our whole family. The little boy's mama said, "Oh well, boys will be boys!"
Joel was heart broken and seemed to have a cloud around him for several days. As a child I used to think Joel was a whiner, but time had taught me that he had a very strong sense of justice. I learned that if I sat down with him, eye to eye, and talked to him about how he was feeling, he would open his heart, reveal what was bothering him, and then he would not whine any more. Sympathy was what he desired.
On this particular week, I went into his room with him and sat down on the carpet floor. We looked at the demolished legos, and I held one in my hand. "Joel, I can't even imagine how bad this made you feel. I would be so hurt. What bothered you the most?"
"It was the injustice of it all. He had no right to be so destructive. I had never done anything to him. It took me almost a year to build all of these pieces. I just thought it was so unfair,"Joel ended with a sigh.
"I so understand and want you to know how very, very sorry I am. It was unkind and unjust."
Then I prayed with him and blessed him.
That night, he said, "Mama, I think I can be strong now and build a whole new city. I just wanted someone to listen to me and to understand. Thanks, Mama."
And off he went outdoors to play with the other kids.
Way 18 We choose to be joyful even when we feel like complaining.
Life is a constant challenge, every day, all the time. Things quit working, someone makes a mess, life just isn't fair. But what can make it worse is children and adults who whine and complain all the time. The habit of whining and complaining turns quickly into nagging and an attitude of self-absorption--which destroys hope, light and beauty. God is so clear about how he felt about the complaining of the Israelites. It led them to disbelief. They wandered in the desert for 40 years because of their complaining hearts and disbelief. This story is a great warning to our children as we are teaching the this way.
It is not wrong to be sad or depressed because of a tragedy, because God is the one who supplied our ability to have emotions. We need and long for people who will sympathize with us, we need to have comfort for pain, brokenness, injustices in life. God wants to comfort us and we heal more quickly if we have someone who will help bear our burdens. For my sweet boy, this was a tragedy.
But as moms, we have the opportunity to work with our children in the hard or unfair situations, to help them to learn to be strong--to mount up over their difficulties. This is what character training is all about--helping our children to become stronger one day at a time.
Will-training is something I have written about many times. It is our will that chooses to have faith in God, that learns how to persevere under trial, that chooses to love the unlovely, that shows generosity to the needy. The will is what makes heroes, strong marriages, legacies of faithfulness.
As we gently enter in to the recesses of our children's hearts and understand their feelings, we can then teach them to learn to be strong inside, but practicing a grateful heart, with an understanding that our heart's attitudes are the place where real strength and spirituality take place. Gentleness and patience leads our children to embrace these attitudes.
"You are becoming so strong inside--just like a hero who saves people in a scary battle. Just like Florence Nightingale saved lives by taking care of the wounded in a terrible war. I believe that God will use you to help many because you are growing so strong inside. "
Memory Verse: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near." Phillippians 4:4-5
This week, look at your own heart. Is it joyful? Are you modeling to your children an uncomplaining spirit? We are the picture of what our children will really learn as we train them.
You can listen to Joel's beautiful music here. He composes for film scores, creates chorale composition and albums just for the pleasure of listening.