You wake up in the morning, have your prayer and devotional time, then come out of your room to find art supplies scattered all over the family room floor, kids yelling at each other in the living room, and a rabbit on the kitchen table. What do you do? Well, if you're like me, all too often you jump into "What's going on here?" in a volume loud enough to be heard above the kids' yelling (not to mention to be heard three houses away), then start barking orders getting everyone back to their morning chores. Then you shoot an evil look towards your husband, silently accusing him of not keeping things under control while you were trying to have a peaceful time with God.
Sound familiar? This scenario has happened to me more times than I care to admit. Now it's never my plan to turn into an obnoxious drill sergeant when I leave my room in the morning; it just happens. So, what went wrong?
Too often we go through our day not realizing that life is a series of little decisions. We get caught up in the moment and in our emotions. But we can make daily, hourly, and yes, sometimes even moment by moment decisions to choose righteousness over sin.
In 2 Samuel 13:1-22 we read about a woman named Tamar. She was a young, beautiful woman who innocently went to the home of her half-brother Amnon in order to care for him when he was sick. It was in fact a trap set by Amnon so he could be alone with her and violate her. She went to her brother Absalom who seemed completely clueless about his sister's hurt ("Regard not this thing," 2 Samuel 13:20), and she moves into his house.
Now this is the part that I love – not because it's encouraging, but because it serves as a warning to me for my own life and heart. "So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house" (2 Sam 13:22). Here is a woman who every day made a decision when she woke up to be bitter and empty about her life. She allowed one event to determine the rest of her life. For all eternity, Tamar will be remembered as "a desolate woman."
We've all had hard things in our life. In fact, Jesus promises that they'll come (Matthew 10:34, John 16:33) Whether we face the scars of abuse, or the daily challenges of marriage problems, special needs kids, or persecution by family members, we all make a decision every morning whether to choose righteousness or sin. There is an unending list that each of us could make of the things that "justify" our bitterness, but the fact remains, that we may have become "a desolate woman."
We've all thought, "This isn't what I bargained for, God. This isn't fair and I don't deserve this. Why can't I have it easy like everybody else? Why does everybody else get the blessings and I only get the curses? God, are you even listening?" The fact is that life isn't fair and we don't get what we deserve. If we got what we deserved, we'd be forever separated from God because of our sin. We wouldn't have the husband or children that we have, because we've done nothing to deserve them, and we wouldn't have Heaven to look forward to, because we've exchanged our relationship with God for a selfish and sinful life.
We've heard Romans 8:28 over and over again that ". . . all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." But do you really believe it? There are times that I need to look back and realize that the illness that had me bed-ridden for a year and a half is what now helps me to encourage my son through his illness. And that tumultuous relationship with a hard-to-love woman at church has helped me meet the needs of other women in my life. Then there was the heartache of finding out that my son has special needs, and the day to day challenges that it brings . . . Well, you get the idea. All those tough times helped to refine my character to prepare me for God's works and to purify my heart in my relationship with God.
When we allow ourselves to be bitter, we have a negative impact on our household. What effect am I having on my family when I bark orders to everyone to get things cleaned up? Or when I'm resentful of having to clean up another cup of spilled juice off the floor? Or having to take time to discipline a child again and again for the same thing? It affects my family much deeper than what I can see.
How will my husband and children remember me? Will I be that "desolate woman" who never dealt with the bitterness of life? Or will my children "arise up, and call (me) blessed" (Proverbs 31:28)? That's a decision that I make every day based on the choices that I make.
As I head out of my room to greet my kids today, I have many little choices to make. Although I'll try, I know that not all will be righteous, and I can pray that God's grace will cover over my sin. But I can decide to walk out the door and greet my husband and each child with a hug and a smile. Then I can look each one in the eye and say "Good morning. I love you!" and express my gratefulness for them. And that's a decision that will have a positive, lasting impact not only on my family, but on me as well. Let's commit ourselves today, with God's help, to making the minute-by-minute decisions that will please Him and be a blessing to our families.
Lori Clemmons and her husband have been homeschooling since 1999. Their children are Alex, Jesse, and Tevy. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area.