Monday, September 23, 2013

'What do you prefer?'

1 Corinthians 4:21 (NIV)

What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
I read this verse earlier tonight — sometime between dinner and bath time, while one kid was upstairs trying like heck to get some Minecraft software to function properly and the other two were in the living room ignoring the super loud TV and making their own ruckus. There also were two guys in the basement installing drywall, which is not exactly a noiseless endeavor.

At that moment, my reaction was similar to a response I’ve had quite often while working on this project. I think about the way I want to be treated, and it tells me an awful lot about the way I should treat other people. As it relates to my kids, to whom I can bring either harshness or benevolence, it’s pretty obvious which path to walk. The challenge is remembering this choice when actually face with the option.

As luck would have it, I had such an opportunity just a few hours later. Kristie was out for the evening so bath and bed were my responsibility alone. Settling down in the evening is not our strong suit, nor is actually getting in the tub at the requested time. But as I felt my self begin to bubble and possibly boil over, I fortunately remembered the choice I’d encountered an hour or so earlier in the midst of a hectic scene.

Tonight I think I was able to present a gentle spirit, or at least to be more calm than my usual demeanor under this kind of mild duress. I’m not always capable of making this choice, and I do believe there are instances where the rod of discipline, metaphorically, is not only appropriate but actually a far better option than gentleness, lest kids perceive serenity as indifference or tacit approval.

Aside from all that, I rather like the “What do you prefer?” question. Rarely are we offered the courtesy of that question — and rarely do we offer it to others, children or otherwise. Yet who among us would answer with anything other than the second of the two approaches? We know what we like, we know what works best as the giver and receiver, and yet we — or at least me — can’t always see to it to make the obvious choice.

I wish I knew why that was, other than just chalking it up to human nature. I guess replacing some of that human instinct with full deference to God’s desire for me is the more important right choice. Tomorrow is another day to get it right.

A prayer for September 23:

Lord, it is so easy to promise to love others as I love myself and yet can be so hard to put those words into action. Just as I know I should love you fully with every ounce of myself, so too do I realize the way I should be presenting myself to all I encounter, and especially those most dear to me. Help me to come to them in love. Make my spirit gentle, and let the peace I feel inside be evident outwardly in all my relationships. Lead me in this way, shape me and use me so others might see your love reflected in me. Amen.

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