I turn the last child’s light out and I slump down a door frame and I cry quiet in the dark.
The mother grief scalds the cheeks but what washes away the mother grime?
I’ve become the parent I knew as a child. The one I looked straight in the face and fierce vowed I’d never be. But my ears ring with the echo of my voice, that voice: Can’t you see what a mess this is? How many times do I have to tell you? What were you thinking?
How did I end up here and I want to muffle out me and the 24/7 forge of children that can liquefy the steely resolve.
I weep molten. I beg God to burn off the soul dross.
How can a mother be frustrated her child is not as she longs him to be, when she herself is not as she longs to be?
I run my fingers through my hair and I wail soundless. The clock ticks heavy.
When I find the pillow, my chest hurts hard and I know it: the only air non-toxic to humans is Grace. I try to inhale it deep. I sleep.
When we wake, we read, for there is a Bread that can break the fast, and it’s the way this version of the text expresses it that unlocks the hard places:
“When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.“ Ephesians 4:29 (NCV)
I look around the table and into their eyes. Into them. I had held them in my one hand, them pinked and swaddled, and I had made them strong with the milk letting down and the love, and I had witnessed the stretching of the spine, the first tottering steps and I had squealed wonder and I had offered the hand. Mamas make strong.
When we finish the Bible reading, we reach for hands to pray, I feel little fingers again and couldn’t I do this again?
Just for today:
- Couldn’t all the words out of my mouth only be the strengthening words? Words that nourish their bones and muscle their hearts.
- What if I tried to change nothing in children but I focused on only this: Let the tongue speak only the words that make souls stronger.
Like oxygen, couldn’t just speaking strengthening-words change the whole of the atmosphere?
When he teases his sister and she rages, I grit-pray for grace and strengthening words: “Family’s a boat and the world’s rough waters and family is meant to be the one safe place where no one pushes anyone out of the boat. Let’s hold onto each other folks.”
I get in there too, embrace them, draw them up out of the storm. And we hug each other until we feel soul strong.
When an angry child spits a fiery temper tantrum, I remember, and when there’s a heated debate over who gets to practice piano first, I remember and when in the course of five minutes a finger gets jammed in a door and a lego creation gets stomped on and the house erupts wild, I forget and a stream of exasperation weakens these walls and He reminds and I circle back and try to renovate my own tearing down with the edifying words.
We breathe grace. This oxygen changes everything.
The tongue is the tail of the heart. And a lashing tongue is the symptom of an anger riddled heart. It’s always the heart that whips the tongue hard and breaks the backs weak.
And I think I am finally getting it: If Grace always pulses the heart, and love’s the blood coursing tender through veins, the tail of the heart, that tongue, it caresses and it strokes and it revives the soul until small ones stand up David-tall before Goliaths.
It’s a dark night weeks later. I turn out the last light and a voice calls through the dark.
I wait still in the black, hand on a light switch.
“Thanks…for the way you made me feel today.”
It’s the words, the strengthening words, the I-will-build-you-up-until-you-stand-so-tall-you-can-see-Jesus- here-and-in-you-and-even-in-me-words. I lean into a door frame and tonight I get to smile and I fill with the full life, light in the dark.
Grace words make the weak-us stronger.
Photo: us here with “By Grace Alone”, by DaySpring’s Blessings Unlimited
Q4U: So tell us — we’re all heart-ears around here — how are you feeling about the words in your family these days?