The four-year-old in our house is learning and testing the power of words, which means we're experiencing a lot of screaming and yelling, a lot of arguing, a lot of rude comments and demanding instead of requesting. It's aggravating, to say the least. So I spend a majority of my day correcting and scripting. But the tone of that correction varies dramatically--and I felt convicted about that last week when I read some insights from Tim Keller's book King's Cross.
Keller explores the "Request of James and John" in Mark 10, where Jesus has just finished describing to the disciples how He will be tortured and killed. After this grim and sobering prophecy, the first words out of his closest disciples' mouths are startling. Keller writes:
"James and John say, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' That's a great way to start a prayer, don't you think? 'Oh Lord, I have a humble request, and I want you to do exactly what I say.' Jesus puts up with them graciously--that's the way he was. 'What do you want me to do?' he asks. He doesn't say, 'Um, would you care to start over?' Or 'How dare you talk to me like that? Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who you are?' He simply says, 'What do you want?'"Now, obviously I need to correct Elijah when he speaks disrespectfully. My job as his mother is to teach him how to express his desires and emotions appropriately, without rudeness or screaming/whining. But there is a world of difference between a calm, matter-of-fact "You may not speak to me that way. Try again," and an angry, indignant "You may NOT speak to me that way!! TRY AGAIN!"
I can (should--must!) correct and teach Elijah without getting personally offended and outraged. The difference between Jesus and James/John was infinitely greater than the difference between me and Elijah! While Elijah is instructed to obey and honor me as his mother, I am more like him than not. We stand as peers before the holy God. And I am not inherently worthy of respect and honor in the way that Jesus is. So if He can respond patiently to James and John's (and my own!) ridiculous arrogance and petulant demands, how much more do I need to display that same patience as I interact with my four-year-old son (who IS a child, not just acting like one)?
Oh, how thankful I am for the way God is slow to anger, infinitely patient, abounding in love and compassion toward me. And oh, how I need His grace as a mother to enable me to reflect those qualities to my impressionable sons.