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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Battling for Victory

Remember this scene from The Miracle Worker? Annie Sullivan struggles mightily to gain the upper hand with Helen, knowing that she must have Helen's obedience before she can teach her anything. Of course Helen's rebellion is complicated by her deafness and blindness, but at its core it is a struggle against authority.

Toby and I just went through a similar struggle today. Although it lasted about 45 minutes, not eight, and perhaps did not rise to the same level of violence (although he nearly bit me!) I felt just as disheveled and exhausted as Annie Sullivan. In the midst of it, I thought of this scene and wished I had an Annie Sullivan to come work miracles in my son's life, so I didn't have to go through that struggle.

As usual when our children oblige us to engage in a power struggle, I really didn't have time for it. We have a houseful of kids today and I was fixing lunch for seven kids. Toby dropped a pile of napkins on the kitchen floor. I asked him to pick them up.

"Yes, Toby, pick them up."
"No! I don't want to."

I didn't understand right away that he was ready for war and so I carried on with lunch prep. But I noticed the napkins again after a minute. Where was Toby? Gone. I went off to find him and set him straight:

"Toby, pick up these napkins. You cannot have your lunch until they are picked up."

You can only believe the calmness that enveloped me if you understand the amazing grace and glory of our Lord Jesus, who has been preparing me for this moment for three days! Toby has been naughty several times recently and I've handled it badly. But this time...

"Toby, I'm sad you are going to miss lunch--"
"--but if you pick up the napkins you can join us."

I sat down with the other six kids to lunch. He screamed and cried. We soldiered on, eating and trying to visit.

Toby tried to grab his lunch plate.
I moved it away.
He screamed some more, crying and angry.
He found the plate and reached again. I physically removed him from the kitchen.

I reminded him of the situation. Pick up the napkins, then eat your lunch. Rather than obeying, he dug in deeper. I took him to his room and an Annie/Helen-style struggle ensued. I held him. He wiggled away, demanding his blanket. I carried him back to his bed and told him that he couldn't have his blanket or Bear or lunch until he picked up those napkins. He kicked and screamed. On and on and on.

"Who's in charge, Toby?"

Finally, in the midst of sobs, sweat, and prayers, he began to calm down a bit. I prayed aloud for him to repent. I prayed God would make Himself known to Toby even when he isn't seeking God (Romans 10:20). I prayed for Toby's submission and my strength. All aloud and near Toby's ear. He raged again, then calmed once more.

At last he quit raging and wanted to snuggle. But I told him he couldn't until he picked up the napkins.
"Who's in charge, Toby?"
"You are."
"And who's in charge of me?"
"And Daddy?"

He slowly walked back to the kitchen and tearfully picked up all the napkins. The six other kids were long gone, the lunch dishes loaded in the dishwasher (Thanks Hope!), but Toby's lunch was saved for him. He sat down at the table and I joined him as he ate.

The words of Sovereign Grace Music's new album "To Be Like Jesus" filled the air. It was "Jesus, You're My Hope."
Jesus, You were tempted
In every way like I am
But You never gave in--no!
You looked to Your Father
And the Spirit's power
For Your strength and self-control

Right at the beginning
When I feel like sinning
Help me look to You alone
Help me to obey, Lord
Follow in Your way, Lord
Jesus, give me self-control
(Mark Altrogge © 2009 Sovereign Grace Praise)

Exactly my prayer. And the reason why this time I didn't respond to my son's sin with more sin. Perhaps there is a better way to handle a three year old's raging rebellion, but the key victory here is that I didn't get angry. I did a few days ago, yelling and giving a meaningless lecture.

Jesus is the miracle worker. The miracle that happened at my house this afternoon is this: I didn't get angry like I did on Saturday. Thank you, Jesus. May I look to You alone when I am tempted and may you prepare me for the next time...


Laura said...

Way to go, Mrs. Edwards! Praise God for moments like these... I'm right there with you battling the will of a 3-year old. Some days I finish exhausted, as you mention. I pray that your consistency in this area will allow God's fruitfulness to bloom in Toby's life.

Mrs. Edwards said...

I struggle mightily for consistency in this, Laura. It seems I fail more than I see the way to victory. I appreciate your prayers very much! Yes, may God's fruitfulness bloom in Toby's life.

Next time I'm in a battle with Toby, I'll remember to pray for you and your three-year-old.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to this post all too well. Only, it's my 6-year old! He has always been very stong willed, and I have always struggled with him. We just recently have been having talks about how God wants him to behave and praying about it together. It is amazing how much it is helping! God is amazing. In a way, I think this might just be a great experience for my 6yo so that he can experience first hand the wonders of the Lord. He is telling me all the time now to "pray about it" when I am having a problem. :-)


The Dave Hawk Family said...

I am just getting around to getting through some of your old posts! This little battle with Toby sounds like just something that would happen at my house :)- and we LOVE "To Be Like Jesus" here! It has helped ME so much to view their sin in a "grace"-ful way. Each of the kids has a theme song from that album- and they love singing their own song- Jesus, You're My Hope is my oldest daughter's song :) Of course, my 7 year old son's song is "Self-Control"- lol!

I am so encouraged when I read your blog!


Mrs. Edwards said...

It was good to re-visit this post with your comment. This happened in mid-July and re-reading it, along with your comment, made me realize that Toby has not thrown one of these major battles since the summer! It is exciting to see him maturing and learning. Of course he is still naughty, but I mean that the physical crying, screaming, kicking fits seem to be past. God is good.

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