Why was it so difficult to be an example at home?
A mother’s honest testimony of how her child’s simple comment revealed a genuine truth about herself.
“But you get angry”
It was Monday morning and I was just home from dropping off the older children at school. I unlocked the front door and went inside with the little ones. I was feeling a bit low. It wasn’t because it was Monday and it wasn’t because a big basket of clothes needed folding. It was a feeling of disappointment in myself. It wasn’t a nice feeling.
The morning actually started out great. I got up ready to face a new week. My outlook was positive. But that changed quickly. The children were a challenge from the get-go—fighting, arguing, not listening and playing instead of getting ready for school. Actually, looking back, it wasn’t even that bad. They were just doing what children do. But I just couldn’t handle it. It irritated me. I felt myself getting more and more annoyed. The bickering didn’t stop on the way to school either. Finally, I snapped; I couldn’t deal with it any more. I stopped the car and yelled at the children. The fighting stopped and I drove to school. Before they left the car I spoke to them about how they should behave and not get angry with each other.
My eight-year-old son listened to me and then replied, “But you get angry.”
Be an example to the believers
Now I was home, the house was quiet, but those words were ringing loudly in my ears. It was so true and it was why I felt so low. This is not how I wanted to be. How could I help my children and help them make the right choices in life when I myself was not even living what I said?
I had been at church the day before and one of the speakers had read the verse from 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” “Who are the believers?” The speaker had asked. “It’s the ones who we are with all the time—our children, our marriage partners, our families. Are we an example to them?” I realized this is where I was really lacking.
It was easy to be “good” and behave in the way people expected a Christian person to behave when I was at church or at school in front of other parents. Why was it so difficult at home with the ones I loved? I realized that around other people I had been living a good outward life, but inside not much had changed. All I was doing was suppressing my feelings. Then when I was at home and not as watchful as I should be and not as concerned about what other people thought, I allowed the feelings to take over and the irritation and impatience that had always been there showed themselves in my words and actions to the ones I loved. I realized that the root of the problem was that the sin which dwelt in me had to be dealt with—that way things could change!
Applying God’s Word to my situations
It was as though a light had gone on for me. I wasn’t happy about the way I was behaving, but I was glad I had finally seen the problem and that I could do something about it. I felt a new hope inside of me. I determined in my heart that I was going to get rid of irritation and impatience no matter what it cost, and that I was in truth going to be an example to the believers—to my children and family first and foremost. The first thing I did was pray to God to give me strength to accomplish this.
In all the busyness of everyday life I realized I had really neglected to read God’s Word enough. I also knew that God’s Word is a weapon and without filling myself with it I had nothing to fight with when I faced my temptations. So I started to read my Bible more for the purpose of applying the words I was reading to help me in my situations.
One verse that I was able to use practically was “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” Philippians 2:14. Instead of seeing the negative side to a situation I learned to be thankful and face it with joy. Best of all, I could see that the children were also happier and more thankful when I took it in this way. I was being an example!
Another verse that helped me was “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4. I started to think of how I could make it good for the others and make a good atmosphere in the home for the children. By living these simple words of God in my everyday situations and by praying to God for strength and help, I was being transformed. Instead of becoming irritated when things didn’t go my way, I was learning to be more patient and kind. Instead of being unthankful and seeing the negative in everything, I was starting to become more thankful.
Outwardly my life looks much the same as before. It’s still busy at home. My children still fight and argue as they once did and behave as normal children do. There are ups and downs. Some days seem to go by like a breeze, while on other days everything seems to go wrong and upside down. I still need to deal with all this—the good days and the bad.
I’m still tempted to be impatient and irritated and when I am not watchful harsh words do still come out of my mouth from time to time. But I am also living a much more conscious life. When those feelings stir inside me I am much quicker to recognize them for what they are and put them to death before they evolve into words that could potentially hurt others. That way, what comes out isn’t steered by my feelings or the sin in my nature, but can be influenced by God’s Word.
This is why a lot has changed as well. I know this because I sense a greater joy and peace in myself. I don’t want to be the same person I once was. Through praying and reading God’s Word much more I am able to see more clearly the things I need to change. I am learning to speak good, kind words where I once would have raised my voice in irritation. I am being thankful where I once would have complained. I am thinking of the others where I once would have only thought of myself. I am being an example to the believers! And best of all I am also truly being transformed.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.