It had been a particularly trying night.
My sons had been fighting with me, and each other, and I’d been doing everything in my power not to yell back.
The last thing I wanted was to add to the chorus of ‘stop it’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘aarghhh!!!’
My job is to be the calm one, right?
Calm, yet firm.
In control, aware of my emotions, centred…
The parent, not the oldest child. Yes, the parent – not the pushover.
I was trying – and failing, fast.
The minutes were racing towards their designated bedtime and my heart was pounding with either excitement at the prospect of ‘me time’ or the adrenaline of trying to wrangle two argumentative boys. Don’t know which.
Either way, we were nearly there.
My nine-year-old was ramping it up more than usual, pushing back on my every request, pushing his brother, pushing every boundary.
“Maybe you need to get to bed earlier tonight,” I said.
“You seem very tired…”
“No! I’m fine!” he yelled, before knocking over several toys in his path.
“What’s going on with you, Tom?” I said.
“You seem really angry.”
At that point he started crying; sobbing…
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said.
“I can’t stop this attitude…
“I keep having this attitude, and I don’t know how to stop…”
It’s a rare moment when a child confesses to an attitude problem.
As he continued to tell me about his ‘issues below the tip of the iceberg’, which included some mild bullying at school, and a general feeling of ‘not fitting in’, it made me think about my own ‘stuff’.
Often my behaviours stem from deeper concerns too, and I don’t always take the time to address them.
At the moment, I’m getting ready to say goodbye to a church I’ve been part of for over six years, and it’s hard. Really hard.
I’m worried about my 11-year-old son as well, and his ongoing pre-teen anger issues.
I’m also feeling apprehensive about a lot of changes in my life, and finding it hard to trust God for the unknown paths ahead.
We all have worries and concerns that are simmering under the surface, and we tend to react by either melting down or shutting down.
But the best thing we can do for ourselves when our behaviours take us by surprise, is to stop and question them.
To do a bit of digging.
And engage in a bit of raw honesty.
Sometimes we need to admit that ‘our attitude’ may be connected to something else… something deeper.
Something which needs the hand of God on it, and the Spirit’s gentle guidance as we go to the Word and ask for fresh insight.
Let’s pray that we’d have eyes to read between the lines of our lives.
Lord, help us not to carry our ‘stuff’ alone. Help us to have the wisdom to take it to you; to engage in Scripture; and allow you to direct our thinking so that our attitude and actions are transformed. Help us to receive your grace for each new day, as we dig up all those things ‘under the surface’ and bring them into your glorious light.
In Jesus’ name I pray,