Most of us have at least one kid who is "that" kid. The kid who pushes your buttons...oh...every 5 seconds or so and seems to have an unearthly talent for embarrassing you and/or getting into scrapes or life-threatening situations.
Though Alathia was a very strong-willed and difficult toddler, she quickly matured and became Mama's big helper and a very obedient little girl. Jer went through a stubborn phase as a pre-schooler but is back to being compliant and sensitive. Now, in the wake of his siblings' budding maturity, Justus has taken it up on himself to make sure that Mama's job is
exhausting, hard, incredibly frustrating....a challenge.
My dad calls Justus "Dennis." While I don't like the idea of giving kids negative nicknames so that they become like that word/identity or have lifelong emotional scars, I have to say that the resemblance is uncanny between the two. We recently watched some old Dennis the Menace movies and the little blonde guy in the movie is exactly like our Justus. Justus is cheerful, positive, curious, cute, and very smart just like Dennis but without intending to get into trouble, it follows him everywhere like there is a magnetic force within his body that attracts it.
For example: We go to the ice-cream parlor as a family one hot summer evening. Jer accidentally spills a little slush on Justus, and so he asks to be cleaned up. Just when we get that mess cleaned up, Justus spills a huge amount of slushy all over the ice-cream parlor floor, causing the waitress to have to get out the broom and dustpan. Poor gal! Then he needs a wet wipe for the table and goes to get one from the lady at the counter. But one isn't enough. He needs more napkins for the drips all over him. Then he comes back to his seat and realizes that when you bite styrofoam, it causes a hole! Go figure! His slushy is dripping out of the bottom of his cup. Meaning...he has to bug the waitress YET AGAIN for a second cup to put on his leaking slushy. Upon arriving home, he left the last remaining 1/5 of his slushy on the wooden cutting board, where even in a double cup, it leaked all over the counter and floor that night unbeknownst to us until the morning.
Sigh. This is just an example of 20 minutes with Justus and his unintentional mischief. Throw in deliberate disobedience, like his frequent hitting of his little sister, his refusing to come out of the closet for his Sunday School teacher, and his escaping from the pastor's wife during Children's Church and roaming through the church during the sermon for 200 people to observe and you have an immediate trip on the Humble Express. And then there is his sticking the craft down his pants at library storytime and dancing around looking horribly inappropriate, his numerous brushes with death, his glass-shattering screaming, his endless bruises and scrapes in a day, and his swinging a belt around and causing a gushing wound on his brother's head, and you wonder if you will survive parenting him to adulthood. When one is in charge of keeping him alive and out of trouble for 13 hours every day, all day, it leaves one a very worn-out Mama.
I was so blessed by a paragraph in Kari Patterson's book "Plenty: 31 Sips of Joy for Moms Everywhere." (I've really enjoyed her little book, which I got free on my Kindle.) In Chapter 8, entitled, "When You're Struggling..." pastor's wife, author, speaker, and blogger Kari writes:
I felt like going to a therapy meeting and saying, "Hi, I'm Kari, and yes, my son is "that kid." Why this Lord? I'm busting my tail at parenting. I read all the books, try all the methods, pray pray pray. I study the Word, teach him Bible verses, I spend all day with him. This is humiliating and I feel like everyone's an expert on this except me.....I don't want to be the mom of the bad kid!"
She goes on to talk about how God spoke to her through a children's Bible story about Naaman. Naaman wanted healing, but was too proud to lower himself to dip into the dirty Jordan river. Kari saw Naaman in herself. She said, "How many times had I prayed, "God heal me of my pride. God sanctify me. God grant me humility. God grant me a teachable spirit. God help me connect with the real needs of women around me. God help me grow in maturity and wisdom. God reveal areas that are sinful that need your touch. God heal me of my selfishness, heal me of my insecurity, heal me of myself."
He answered: Go wash in the Jordan.
Go wash in the murky, stinky waters of a toddler's rebellion and embarrassing misbehavior. Go wash in the murky waters of trial and error, charting unknown waters, trying new things that often don't work. Go wash in the waters of humility, in the waters of asking others for help, in the waters of exhausting reptition and consistency. Go wash in the waters of faith and not of sight.
"But Lord! I'd rather wash in the crystal clean waters of Bible Study. I'd like to grow in my sanctification by..hmm..how about blogging?......But these waters? These are stinky, smelly, and humiliating."
Like Naaman, I finally surrendered to the stinky waters of struggle.
When the word of criticism stings: Go wash.
When you have "that kid:" Go wash.
Whatever is stinky and smelly in your life may actually be the means of your salvation.
So, here I am, in the "Jordan" with Justy. I know he's a special kid. He has more charisma than anyone in our family. He'll undoubtedly be the most popular as a teenager, and will likely be a leader amongst his peers and a dangerous man of God. I can be thankful that he's continually bringing me to my knees...for there is no better place to be!