Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
-2 Thessalonians 2:16
My youngest son is what you’d call “spirited.” He comes by it honestly. Whether you subscribe to nature or nurture or a combination of the two, having parents who are— at their core— strong willed question askers, will tend to create an independent-minded, spirited and sometimes stubborn kid.
I know that in the course of all my asking and independence, I often become stuck in the question. I forget to listen to the answers given, especially if the answer is not the one I want to hear. This is played out every single day before me as I watch my kids, but mainly my youngest at this moment, wrestle with the questions and the answers and the lean toward being independent and autonomous.
I could see my son struggling with this a few nights ago. We were headed out to dinner to celebrate a birthday (not his birthday), and he didn’t want to go, or he didn’t want to be rushed, or he didn’t like the restaurant— there was quite a lot he didn’t like about the proposition. So he sulked the whole time. It was kind of awful, and I was angry about it. His sulky rubbed off on me. It’s familiar. It’s contagious.
After much grumbling and cajoling and trying to pull us both out of the tailspin we’d entered I asked this simple question, “Do you want to feel better?” He looked at me a moment and then shrugged. I asked myself the same question just then. His sulk was contagious, but perhaps I knew the cure and was simply choosing not to take it. Did I want to feel better? I didn’t know either.
Sometimes when I feel out of control, when things don’t go my way, especially in parenting, I think I resort to guilt making and sulking. And no, I don’t want to feel better just then. Feeling better seems like giving up something, and that feels even worse than the anger and sulking— at least, this is what my “feelings” tell me. I try to remind myself that my feelings are not always the best indicators of truth. I might “feel” slighted but am I really? I might “feel” like the world is ending, but is it?
Here’s that step back— and this takes some doing. I admit I’m terrible at confronting the truth of the moment. It simply feels better to stay in the anger, the sulking, the slighted and offended stance. It feels powerful. It feels correct.
Except when it doesn’t, which invariably comes just on the heels of those stuck, angry feelings. I find myself, even then, openly shrugging off those arms and words that comfort. Then I’m sad and I’m defeated, and I’m alone and unsure of where to turn next. Comfort seems far now and unattainable. I’m stuck then in my “if only” cycle. If only I’d taken the comfort when it was offered. If only I’d remembered that life long lesson that my feelings are ever shifting.
During this Nativity season, I’m working on accepting comfort when it comes. Life is just too short to stay immeshed in anger or sulking. This heart is too tired and torn down with the labors of life. I do need the comfort, and I want to accept it. I want to feel better.