Monday, July 18, 2005

ugly monsters

A really hideous monster has been rearing its ugly head in the life of my normally good-natured daughter lately. About a month ago I began to hear it first gurgle and grunt within her. It now is bolder and louder, and says things like, “But that’s mine!” or “I was playing with that first!” or “He always wants what I have!” It speaks in ear-piercing, whiney tones resembling something along the line of a beginning violin, and its presence is often accompanied by tears and a great deal of melodramatic foot-stomping, eye-rolling, and a quite impressive turned-down pout. It is gravely concerned with fairness, complete equality, and getting its own way.

“What has possessed this child,” I think to myself incredulously. I consider it seriously for a moment, but then dismiss all thoughts of demon-possession as ridiculous. For the moment.

But this thing within her has reached a roar and charges on, unstoppable. No amount of threatening, lecturing, shaming, starving or isolating it brings the savage beast under control. No amount of talk about kindness, selflessness, or thoughtfulness deters its relentless focus on itself.

Again, I delude myself into asking, “What is going on here?” But it is merely denial.

The trouble is, I recognize this monster completely.

The trouble is, it looks a lot like ME.

I know what’s going on. I just don’t know how to deal with it. How do I teach my six-year-old a lesson about selfishness that I have not fully learned myself?

My children ask for a bite of food off my closely guarded plate and I snarl like a dog at its dish. My husband dares to have an agenda of his own one weekend and I throw a tantrum to rival my two-year-old son. My life, when I am honest, is carefully orchestrated to make sure I am safe, secure, comfortable, and cared for. It’s not pretty.

I get away with it because most people would not immediately recognize this about me. I give of my time, talents, and resources. I help out people in need. I try to please and bless other people when it is within my ability to do so. And I even suppress my whining and tantrums, for the most part. I just do them quietly, internally. Kind of like when people have seizures that you can’t see—inside I’m really throwing myself on the floor. So I do not appear, to those who don’t live with me, to be completely selfish and self-absorbed.

But I am.

I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I want to have my own way. And I don’t want anyone else to play with my toys. (Or eat my food.)

Yes, I recognize this creature within my daughter, and I recognize where it comes from. It is her sin-nature, and she inherited it from me, and I did from my mother and she from hers. We were born with it, every one of us. And we spend our lives trying to overpower it.

So how do I help my daughter slay this beast that roars so loudly from within her delicate frame?

I slay my own.

I commit myself to the daily exercise of looking not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others. I commit to better love her father so that she can better love her brother. I commit to study Christ, to seek to please Christ, to emulate Christ, and to teach her to do the same.

We will talk about it together. We will pray for one another. We will serve together. We will serve each other.

And so I will share my food and my time and even my toys and I will pray that along the line she will be learning to do the same. Not just because the whining and arguing is driving me to the point of becoming a homicidal maniac, but also because her heart depends on it.

There will be more monsters to fight.

We will both need to be ready.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…

Phil 2: 3-5

© 2005

1 comment:

Erin said...

Lorie, I love this. You opening up and being so truthful. I just want to encourage you because I feel exactly the same a lot of time! It helps to know you arent the only one struggling to hide that selfish nature! Keep it up so we can all keep relating! -Erin