Plaque Finders: Your Spouse and Kids
Remember when dentists would come to school and give you those tablets to chew that showed all the plaque that remained after you brushed your teeth? Those things grossed me out. But they served an important purpose – they revealed the junk that was hidden so you could deal with it and get it cleaned up.
I’ve found that marriage and parenting are kind of like those tablets. When you’re single, you can keep your weaknesses fairly under wraps. If someone pushes your buttons, you can just leave and go home, or you can retreat into your room.
Then you get married and get to be with another person all the time. The person pushing your buttons is suddenly in your home and in your room, and your worst definitely comes out…a lot. You don’t bother to hide who you really are – farts and all – because to do so constantly would be exhausting. Many times your husband doesn’t even know he’s pushing buttons, but when you respond negatively to a situation both of you say, “Wait, what’s going on here? Where did that come from?” You realize how selfish, manipulative, passive-aggressive, or controlling you really can be.
And then you become a parent, and oh my, is it hard to be selfless! You do things for your kids, like clean up their spills and get them more milk, but you grumble the whole time. You park them in front of the TV because it’s just easier than sitting down and playing an extremely tedious game of chess with them. Even if you try hard to keep your unloving tendencies under wraps, they rise up and explode out in moments of chaos or stress, and you end up treating your kids in ways you never thought you would. What’s revealed is your impatience, anger, and dismissive nature.
I’ve been thinking recently about the sanctifying, purifying nature of marriage and parenting. We like to say that our kids alternately bring out the best and the worst in us. We see our “best,” the amazingly powerful urge to protect them and nurture them, and to even wipe their butts with a smile on our faces, thinking that they’re the cutest things on earth. But when they get me riled up – which they do quite often, especially when they have off a ridiculous amount of time for Carnaval – I lecture, yell, rage, and storm. And then I constantly find myself standing before one of my kids, saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness. Constantly!
Over the last 12 years of our marriage, coming face to face with my “worst” – my manipulativeness, bad temper, and impatience – has been difficult, but also really good, because I realize how much needs to change. My weaknesses have pointed me to the Lord and prompted prayers like, “Lord, help me to stop! We can’t keep going on this way.”
I’d been working on this blog post for the past few days, and then at church today our guest preacher said, “After a while you find that you don’t work on your marriage. You find that your marriage works on you.” I would add the fact that parenting works on you, too. Marriage and parenting are like those plaque-disclosing tablets – they lay bare all the rubbish that’s inside you. And as you lay it before the Lord and ask Him to clean it up, He keeps changing you into the mom and wife He wants you to be. In the end, it’s His mercy – not just our junk – that’s revealed.Keeping Faith, Marriage and Parenting. Bookmark the permalink.