We welcomed our youngest child into our lives a few months ago, which makes our home one of 4 children ages 4 and under. People have often asked me how the adjustment to four little ones has been. To be honest, not many things change logistically besides remembering a few more diapers and adding an extra 15 minutes to my “when do I actually need to have the van packed up” time. Even the schedule of our typical day hasn’t changed much. Really, the adjustment has been pretty smooth…except when it comes to lunch time.
Without fail, all four children fall into desperate hunger at the exact same time when the clock strikes 12 (or 11:30, or 11…they mix it up and keep me on my toes). And when simultaneously the newborn is crying, the 18-month old is loudly scooching her high chair across the kitchen floor, the 3 year old is asking questions, and the 4 year old is spilling water as she sweetly attempts to pour drinks for herself and her siblings, I can feel it happening…the impatience, overwhelm, and desire for calm starts rising up within me.
Everything is just so loud- I need it to be quiet.
Everyone needs something at the same time- I need it to be calm.
Everything is so messy- I need it to be at least somewhat clean.
I have a choice to make. Will I ask God to give me patience, or will I give into my feelings and get impatient and angry?
When I Feel the Impatience Rising
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.”
This year my four year old and three year old learned a fruit of the Spirit song at church. It’s a catchy tune with silly noises that has been on a continuous loop in my mind since they learned it months ago. I don’t think I could get the song out of my head even if I tried. And it brings me such joy to see my toddlers dancing and singing “The fruit of the Spirit is not a COCONUT!” as they make a knocking sound on their heads. Galatians 5 is clear that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. I know this in my mind (and I sing the song in my head almost continuously), but my actions often tell a different story. I’d like to say when I feel impatient I ask the Spirit to help me fight for patience. But this is not the case. So often I get angry because I think I need quiet, calm, and clean when in reality, I need the help of the Spirit. I believe the lie that patience is the fruit of a quiet, calm, and clean environment instead of a fruit of the Spirit. Quiet, calm, and clean will not help me fight my impatience, only God can do that. Quiet, calm, and clean may hide my impatience for a little while. But if I never ask the Spirit to help me fight and turn from impatience, I can count on that impatience abruptly returning the next time my environment isn’t exactly as I want it.
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, but so often I yearn for other things I think will give me the patience I crave. I think of my own solutions to my feelings and outbursts of impatience:
“If they would just be quiet for a second, I wouldn’t get so overwhelmed.”
“If they were just a little older and more self-sufficient, I wouldn’t feel so irritated by their neediness.”
“If this house would just stay clean, I wouldn’t feel so anxious and behind all the time.”
“If they weren’t so slow at putting on their shoes, I wouldn’t feel so impatient.”
The reality is, quiet children won’t give me patience. Completely self-sufficient children won’t give me patience. A clean home won’t give me patience. I know this because even when my home is clean or the children are playing quietly on their own, I still get impatient at other things. My impatience is not a noise or cleanliness issue. It is a heart issue.
To be clear, we do need to expect our children to obey, be respectful, and not be out-of-control-crazy. We do need to care for our homes in a way that keeps them from being completely chaotic. We do need to call our children to be godly men and women who love and obey God. True patience is not being a doormat happily allowing chaos and craziness in our homes. If we tell our child not to scream and they do it anyway, we don’t need to tell ourselves to not get irritated by the noise, but we need to help our child obey through teaching and discipline. True patience is not an excuse to allow sin or not train, teach, or discipline when needed. True patience is having control over our emotions as we faithfully teach our children to love and obey God.
An Unwavering Patience
“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…” Ephesians 4:2
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
What good news and comfort it is to know that patience is not a fruit of our environment, but a fruit of the Spirit. Our environment changes constantly (especially if there are toddlers around!). But God never changes. He is faithful to hear our prayers when we ask Him to soften our hearts and to give us patience in any situation. Although I am only four years into the journey of motherhood, I already see how raising children to love and obey God is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years of patient love and training. They have so much to learn about love, sin, and obedience…and so do we! God alone gives us the steady, unwavering patience we desire most in the challenging moments of motherhood. It is this steady, unwavering patience that we truly need as we teach our children what obeying God and living for Him looks like in our daily lives.
So this week, when we feel the impatience and anger start rising up within, let’s pause and pray. Instead of desiring children who are more self-sufficient, more coordinated, more quiet, or a home that has fewer handprint smudges on the windows, let’s desire a patience that allows us to train and teach our children in the way God calls us to as mothers. Let’s desire a steadfast patience that only the Spirit can give.