Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Red Pen Problem

As many of you know, before I worked as a mom I taught middle school for several years.  So...maybe it's the old teacher in me but I have a real problem with RED PEN'ing the people I love most in life.
I often keep a record of right and wrong.  I don't keep a literal grade book of sorts.  But, figuratively speaking I do keep a record book in my mind and heart of the right and wrongs my husband and children do.

Yes that's right, I grade them. 

When their behavior meets my standards or expectations, I RED PEN a good grade.
Good Job! You did it exactly like mom or wife wanted. You passed the test. You've earned my love.

When their behaviors do NOT meet my standards or expectations, I RED PEN a bad grade. 

You didn't do the dishes like "wife" wanted.
You didn't listen or react like "wife" wanted.
So in "wife's" mind & heart...You've failed.

You didn't clean your room like mom wanted.
You haven't grown up as quickly as mom wanted.
So in mom's mind & heart...You've failed.
And because you've failed,
I'm angry.
And because I'm angry,
my love becomes conditional.

I am not always RED PEN'ing those I love. Full of the fruit of the Spirit, I can respond with God's forgiving & patient love and see their behaviors through His grace-filled eyes.  I resist the temptation to keep a record of wrongs and refuse to hold their mistakes over them like bait.   

But if I'm being honest with you, there are many occasions when I respond to their behavior with conditional love.  If they behave as I expect them to, all is good.  But when they don't, I can react in anger and withhold grace-filled love.  I mark their mistakes in their record book and hold it over them the next time they fail to meet MY expectations.

The Lord made me very aware of this RED PEN'ing problem at church this past Sunday. 

There was a call to come and receive prayer if you felt TANGLED UP in anger (unable to free yourself from its grip).  Anger toward my family is a sin that rears its ugly head often in my life.  

It isn't the "throw dishes against the wall while screaming profanity" kind of anger.  It actually might be worse. 

It's the secret inward anger that festers and eventually boils over with explosions of unkind words, selfish actions, and condemnation. 

It's the anger fueled by unrepentant pride

It's the anger of one who feels entitled to withold love until the conditions improve.

Very aware that I often feel tangled up by my anger, I went forward to receive prayer.

The Lord has already revealed to me that one of the root issues of my anger is control.  But during this particular prayer time with Him He revealed another root issue...The RED PEN'ing. 

The verse in 1 Corinthians 13 came flooding to my mind,

"is not rude.  It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

I felt God's stern,  yet loving, voice CALL ME OUT on how my RED PEN'ing is all of these things.

It is rude.
It is self-seeking.
It is easily angered.
And it absolutely KEEPS RECORDS OF WRONG.

And then to further refine my mind & heart, He reminded me of His love.

An unconditional love FULL of grace & forgiveness.
An unconditional love coated in patience.

An unconditional love driven by a hope for an intimate & passionate relationship with me.
An unconditional love solidified by a selfless humility and willingness to do whatever necessary to communicate such love...culimating with the ultimate sacrifice of death on a cross.

An unconditional love that does not keep a RED PEN'ing record of wrong.  For Jesus "forgives [our] wickedness and will remember [our] sins no more." [Hebrews 8:12]

These truths poured over me like rain.
I was drawn to repentance.
And I asked The Lord to drain the ink & snap my RED PEN in half!

Keeping a record book of wrongs is not an easy sinful habit to break.  But I love my family too much to continue its destructive course.

It will require conscious effort on my part.
It will require lots of battling the enemy.
It will require humility and repentance.
And it will require a spiritual pursuit to more deeply understand God's love.

Perhaps some of you have picked up this habit of RED PEN'ing those dearest to you.

Perhaps some of you are the victims of a RED PEN'ing family member.

Either way, let's pray for God's help and healing!

And now to my children...If they grow up watching me RED PEN all of Keith's and their behaviors against my own standards and expectations then I will never be a window to or reflection of God's unconditional love to them.  Plus, they will most assuredly take up this RED PEN'ing habit themselves.

So let's take time today and pray the following:

Would you teach me to be a window to and reflection of Your unconditional love which is FULL of grace, forgiveness, kindness, and patience SO THAT my children will see You in me.  Would you grant me the ability, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, to administer grace and forgiveness to them  Will you bring to light those moments when I begin RED PEN'ing.  Please give me the humility to resist the temptation to keep a record of wrongs and teach me to give my family grace, grace, grace.  Show me the power of forgiveness, free me from being tangled up in anger.  Teach me to love them as You do.

And for my precious children, I pray they too would grow to deeply understand Your love and its unique ability to give grace & forgiveness without condition.  Teach them to love as you do...without being rude, or self-seeking, or easily angered.  May they resist the temptation to keep records of wrong and may they not grow easily angered when the behaviors of others don't meet their prideful expectations.   

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