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A spill on my carpet will have me on my hands and knees with a brush and cleanser.  I’ll scrub with all my might until the stain is gone.  When a glass of juice tips at the dinner table, a quick swipe with a wet rag doesn’t do much to fix the problem.  In fact, it spreads it.  Setting aside my meal for a minute to carefully scrub it ensures that there will be no stickiness later.

You see, I like for my home to be tidy and well-ordered.  I’m not comfortable living in a mess, so I spend a lot of time and energy maintaining aesthetics.  Why then, am I satisfied to simply swipe at the flawed character of my children?  What makes me so quick to give them a surface “cleaning” when what they need is a heart-deep “scrubbing”?
Yesterday had me cringing!  We had bickering among the five oldest, chores that were being half-heartedly done, school work that wasn’t getting done, and a general bad attitude flowing through the house.  I listened to it and swiped at it all morning.  I chided and encouraged and then stood back and hoped things would improve.
They didn’t!
As I grew more and more frustrated at the bitterness and laziness that had abducted our peace, I decided it was time to take serious action.  I called them all into the living room, in my unloveliest of voices, and sat them down for a firm talking to.  But what I saw sitting there knocked the wind right out of me.
Five faces that seemed almost relieved that action was finally being taken.  They just sat, looking at me expectantly.  I got the sickening feeling that they were actually glad I was about to take them in hand.  They were uncomfortable living in their messy little characters, but needed my guidance to help them get things back in order.
We reviewed the house rules.  I reiterated the fact that those rules, while very basic, are to be obeyed.  I set up some boundaries that school work would be done within.  All good things, but they really weren’t going to fix anything.
Early this morning when I woke, the Lord had a word for me.  He sat me down, gently but firmly, and showed me the root of the problem.  He played this past week in review for me and waited to see if I picked up on it.  I’m slow and stubborn and it took some time.  Thankfully, He’s patient, and He knew if I was given a moment I’d catch on.  And I did.
I’ve been treating my children as an inconvenience.  I expect that since I have laid down the law, it will be followed to the letter.  When that fails to happen, I fuss and scold…which is like spraying a pre-treater on a stain after it has set.  It really does nothing, but it makes me feel like I’m doing something.
But the Lord wasn’t done yet.  He showed me Matthew 18 and the servant who had his huge debt forgiven by the king, only to turn around and harshly demand payment of a small sum owed to him by a fellow servant.  What a ridiculous display of ingratitude for the mercy extended to him.
Yet, I do the same to my children.  I forget that for 35 years the Lord has gently and lovingly guided me, never throwing my awful character back in my face or making unreasonable demands that I be perfect right now!  When I’m grumpy, He shows me a better way.  When I’m lazy, He allows me to suffer the natural consequences without nagging or scolding.

He wants my heart, not my good works.  And He wants me to seek out the hearts of my children, freeing them to grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  They can’t do it with me squashing their spirits.  They need me to be holding their hands!