A couple of weeks ago, I took the girls to have lunch with their daddy at work. It was a beautiful day so we went to the picnic tables that his company has outside, and we lunched there. The girls were having honey roasted peanut butter and apples as part of their lunch and pretty soon we were joined by a couple of yellow jackets who wanted to have it, too. I’m terrified of bees but was trying to stay calm so the kids would also keep calm.
Shortly after we had re-assured them, again, that there was nothing to worry about, one of them landed on my husband’s hand and as he tried to shoo it away, he crushed it between his fingers and it stung him. We all saw it happen, and saw his reaction: the grimace of pain, a grunt that sounded something like “oh-oof,” and the wringing of his hand, followed by more grimacing.
And that was it. No histrionics. No yelling. No jumping out of his seat. No so-many-other-ways someone could react to a painful yellow jacket sting. I’ve known this man for nearly half my life and I know how he is, and even I was impressed.
“Girls,” I said. “You have an amazing daddy.”
“Why?” one of them asked.
“He just has incredible self-control. Most people who get stung by bees wouldn’t just sit there and be as quiet as he just was. It’s very painful! And he just really controlled himself even though he hurt a lot.”
Okay, I may have said more than that. I may have demonstrated what some of the histrionics that that their dad forewent would have looked like. But I really wanted to drive home the point that you don’t have to freak out every time something hurts you.
Fast forward to Saturday, and we were hiking. We all enjoy being in the woods so much, but don’t do it often enough. It was a beautiful day, we hiked a 3.5 mile round-trip route. But it was late in the day when we started, and headed back to the car, the girls were tired. I was tired too, and I could tell my motor skills were just off enough that I needed to concentrate on my footing. We warned the girls (who have a penchant for both walking backwards and swiveling their heads all the way around to talk to us) that they needed to keep their eyes on the trail and pay attention.
On one of our little rest breaks by the side of the trail, our eldest was hanging onto the side of a tree when she had a slight misstep and scraped the inside of her arm against the bark. I saw it happen and grabbed her quickly and she pressed into me. I could feel her breathe hard, tense, silently grimace, tense again, breathe hard and hug me tight.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, let me see it,” I said, fully expecting tears and some sort of hike-denouncement coming on. But she said nothing of the sort. She said it hurt, and I know it did, especially because it was at such a place that it would have rubbed against her shirt for the rest of the hike. But she quietly gathered herself and continued on the hike without a word of complaint.
Later in the hike, very near to the end, both girls were goofing off with their dad, running and holding hands, when I saw our six-year-old go down in a complete face plant. She laid on the ground for probably a full 20 seconds as I ran to her. She was starting to get up as I arrived by her side, and I could see the full extent of the damage. Scrapes, on both knees, dirty abrasions on her palms. Dirt all over her shirt and shorts, a flushed face, and her little blond ponytail in disarray. We didn’t discover till later a pretty nasty scrape on her right hip. Her little eyes were watery but instead of letting the tears fall, she insisted, “I’m okay! I’m okay!”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
“I’m okay. I’m okay. “ I brushed her off and we told her that the visitor center was just ahead and we’d get her cleaned up there. With very little fanfare she grabbed her sister’s hand again and they started back down the trail, though this time, they were walking.
They were close enough to us for my husband to overhear our oldest lean over to her sister and say proudly, “Hey! You were using SELF-CONTROL!” And she was. They both had been.
In both instances, they acted very much like they had seen their father act a few days earlier. Both of them had every reason, as children who were hurt, to dissolve into tears. But both made the choice to control their emotions and continue on their adventure.
I was reminded of two things that day.
1. Our children are watching and listening, closely. Yeah, yeah I know I talk about this alot, but this fact continues to be a wonderment to me, as well as a lesson in humility. I pray every day when we start school that their little hearts will be open to the lessons of the day, and they are learning. They may need help in understanding what they are seeing, but that’s one of the great joys of parenting: helping them process lessons. The humility part comes in accepting that in the role of parent, I am a--if not the-- primary role model for their behavior--good or bad. Likewise, with the spiritually less-mature-- they are watching us, too. And if those two sobering realities don't call for self-control, I don't know what does..
2. We all have a choice, in every situation, in how we react. If my six-year-old can hold back the tears while blood is seeping down her knee toward her socks, how much more practiced should I be as an adult? In a situation where my feelings are hurt by a hostile word, I can choose to react with words of kindness, or to react in meekness, sometimes saying nothing at all. When my anxieties threaten to spiral out of control I have the choice to make myself step back and look at the situation as it really is, and let my faith in God’s control comfort me. And on and on. Self-control in situations of pain allows me to continue to have joy on my journey by not focusing on the scrapes I’ve received along the way.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11