Luke pulled his curtains down again causing his brother to wake up. I have told him a multitude of times that it is not ok to do this - and yet he continues to do it.
Emma argued with me over everything from the color of a crayon to what was for dinner. That behavior drives me up the wall faster than anything, feeling challenged by my soon to be four year old.
And so, separately I had "chats" with both of them.
Our new saying in our house is, "Obey right away, all the way, with a happy heart." As I was repeating this to them, exasperated at the "Groundhog Day"-esqueness of it all, I could see their little faces saddened.
And then Luke said to me in tears, "I want to obey. I just don't know how. I love you and I want you to love me. Will you please teach me how to obey?"
Seriously??? My little four year old boy with eyes as big as the sun staring at me with tears rolling down his cheeks broke my heart. I didn't want to make him sad, but I needed to get my point across - I am the mom and he needs to obey me.
So as I ventured over to Emma's room to talk with her about her situation I was broken and frustrated at the same time. Am I doing this right? Am I teaching my kids obedience the right way? And as I began to talk to Emma she looked at me with a genuine look of confusion and said, "But how do I obey? I need someone to teach me how to obey? Will you teach me how?"
Totally defeated I finished my conversation with her and walked downstairs. Am I not teaching them obedience? I thought I had been teaching them, telling them why, praising them when they do "obey right away, all the way and with a happy heart." But my two precious children seemed completely perplexed at the whole concept. Now granted, I know their response was partly due to the fact that they are almost four and that I shouldn't take their conversations with me as indication that I am completely and totally failing at teaching them boundaries and respect for their elders (although, quite honestly, is where I would so easily allow myself to take it if I wasn't careful.) However my conversations with my twins today reminded me of another parent/child relationship - the one between me and my Heavenly Father.
Based on the frustration I have with my four year olds not "getting it" quick enough, how frustrated must God be with me not "getting it" after my almost 29 years?! Obedience is hard and even the Apostle Paul struggled with it in Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)
14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. 17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
And if Paul had this struggle, if I have this struggle - then wouldn't it be totally understandable that my preschoolers struggle with this same thing? God says in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command." And so often I feel that when my kids disobey me so blatantly, that I feel it is speaking of their love for me. But then I think about my love for God. I love Him with my whole heart and yet I fail to be sinless.
So as I go about my days with my children teaching them obedience and most importantly obedience with a happy heart, I will remind myself of my Heavenly Father's patience for me. He is SO patient with me, I can be patient with my precious little blessings...even when I feel like it's Groundhog Day #489.