Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cleanse me from within

You can read this devotional at the Internet Cafe

I have a three year old daughter who is sometimes a challenge. She is bright, beautiful and sweet. She is also obstinate, strong-willed, too verbal for her own good, and prone to drama.

In regards to the latter, that also means that she like me.

Over the past two years I have read every book on discipline I can get my hands on and spent many hours in prayer, trying to figure out what works with this child. I am delighted to announce that I seem to have (finally) found a method I feel good about: heart-based discipline.

Heart-based discipline focuses on changing the heart of the child as opposed to simply the behavior. Most of us were raised using classic behavior modification techniques, which in my case, meant as soon as no one was watching or as soon as I ran a favorable risk analysis, I frequently made the bad choice. But I want my children's hearts to be made more holy, not just their actions. I want their behavior choices to be based on biblical truths and a desire to please God, instead of a reward/punishment mentality or a desire to please mom and dad.

There are many books that tell you exactly how to implement this and several now sit on my nightstand. I still have much to learn, but I have applied some of the advice already. And here's the glory glory hallelujah - it's working. I have seen more changes in my daughter's behavior, and in her heart, in the past month than ever before.

So. Tonight. My husband is working late and I have been home all day with my four tired, cranky pre-schoolers. I am giving them a much needed bath. My oldest has been told four times to quit splashing. He splashes soap in the eyes of his two year old sister and she begins to cry. Do I:
a) look into his eyes calmly, discuss the sin of disobedience, quote some Colossians, lead him to repentance, and finish with a prayer, or do I
b) scream "I SAID STOP!!!!!" as loudly as I can?

If you chose letter B you get a sticker.

I apologize, he forgives me. I apologize again. He forgives me again, and tells me I hurt his ears. Ten seconds later my three year old clone is irritated by her sister and screams at her as loudly as her little voice can. Hmm, wonder where she learned that behavior. Sheepishly, I tell her not to yell.

Later, I ponder the Bathtub Incident. You see, this isn't the first time I have blown my top and yelled at my children. I've been trying to stop doing this for a while. I have been trying to modify my behavior, and I have made some improvement, no doubt. Until my husband works late and I am tired and I am hormonal and and and...

Suddenly That Voice whispers inside my head, Sounds like you need a little heart-based discipline.

Conviction, meet Hypocrite.
Oh, we've met before. Many times!

So here I go with a little Grownup Version of Heart Based Discipline.

Step one: Identify the sin.
Anger is not a sin. Yelling at a four year old is.
What is at the root of my sin?
-Being easily angered.

What does the bible say regarding my actions?

1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Proverbs 29:11: A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.

How could I have handled the situation better?

Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 16:21: Pleasant words promote instruction.


Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Dear Lord, please forgive me for taking my frustration out on my precious children. Please change my heart so that my temper is kept in check and my words are kind.

And now, the best part, encouragement:

Hebrews 4:16: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Are there any behaviors for which you seem to be on the "repent and repeat" track?
  • Can you identify the specific sin behind the behavior? (Sometimes a mature friend in Christ can help you narrow it down.)
  • Find some bible verses that apply to your sin (googling works great!)
  • Repent and ask God's forgiveness, remembering that he will forgive and purify those who earnestly seek his grace (1 John 1:9)
  • Apply the verses to your life, and pray them for yourself.
  • Wait with me for the Lord to change our hearts and our lives!

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