Ugly, Hard, Messy Lessons

The other day my 10-year-old son got in trouble in school again.

His troubles began when he was 2. My sweet, precocious and very active little boy suddenly began having tantrums. My husband and I were separated at the time, and I was pregnant. I attributed this out-of-the-ordinary behavior to his age and the circumstances.

But it never stopped.

Eight years later, he’s been kicked out of four child care providers and has been suspended from school several times. It’s not a normal week if I don’t have at least one conversation with my son’s teacher, assistant principal or principal. I have these horrible, tense conversations with the adults in his life, listening as they describe his latest failure, and I feel their judgment. I feel their blame, and I fight the urge to wheedle.

So when DJ came home from another rough day, I sent him to his room to wait for me. When I went in, he was sitting on the floor wrapped in three blankets, his face and head covered.

“Why are you sitting there like that?” I asked. He took the blanket from his face and looked at me.

“I don’t want to be this way.” I could hear the truth of his words in his voice. “But I feel like I can’t change.” There were tears, but not the hysterical kind. They were resigned tears. My heart broke (again).

I sat down on his bed and invited him to sit next to me. We talked about how hard it is to change our thinking and our actions, how it’s like making a new path in a wildly overgrown wilderness. We talked about Jesus, about the power the Holy Spirit gives us to change. We talked about how it’s not easy. As we talked, I looked down at his knees, knobby and ashy and small, next to my own. I put my arms around him and I held him very tightly for a long time. I thought of the people who only know him as a trouble-maker, and I wished they could see him now. This little boy is my son, my baby, and he’s worth loving and knowing! This isn’t a choice for him! I feel like I’m the only person who knows that or cares to know that … and even I forget sometimes.

I disciplined him. Then I hugged him again, and I left the room.

It’s not always like this. Most of the time I’m impatient with him. Most of the time I’m angry with him. Over the years I’ve sobbed, I’ve raged, I’ve pleaded. I’ve been defensive and embarrassed. I’ve been sad and scared. I’ve been fierce and I’ve been torn. I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been indifferent.

This year in particular I’ve been angry at God. How much did I have to pray before he would make all this go away? How much faith did I need? Didn’t he care that our lives were miserable? I came within inches of abandoning my relationship with the Lord. I mean, the skin of my teeth, you know?

In the meantime, I have prayed generally for patience (an area of great weakness for me) since I got saved. I’ve prayed to see people through Christ’s eyes, to love the way he loves. I want to be this great Christian and I want God to answer all my pious, silly prayers …

The other day my 19-year-old son said he wanted to join the military. He wanted to be an officer, so he wouldn’t have to salute people, they’d have to salute him. I said, “Why do you always want the shortcut to the perks, but you’re not willing to do the hard work to earn them?”

Speak for yourself, Sparky. What a dumb-ass I am.

Look, if this is what it is … and it is … then what am I doing? Sitting around being pissed at God instead of learning to love my son the way Christ loves him and me: patiently, overarchingly, graciously, hopefully, and consistently. I don’t believe God sends hard things solely to teach us a lesson. On the other hand, I don’t know why this is our lot. But it is. Ugly and hard and messy as it is, I just won’t waste it anymore. I don’t think it’s a situation God created solely to answer my prayers. But the situation itself has created an opportunity for God to answer my prayers. So if there’s a lesson in this somewhere, if nothing else, I want to learn it.

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7 thoughts on “Ugly, Hard, Messy Lessons

  1. One of the many amazing and awesome things about God is how He first helps us through the hard stuff (sometimes we don’t know it at the time) and then He gives us the honor of using the hard stuff that we have gone through to reach out to others in the same place.

    My heart aches for that little boy who is learning at such an early age what it is like to struggle with our sin nature. And my heart goes out to his Mommy who seems to so desperately want to love him and help him through this!

    God WILL give you the grace and love and understanding to see your little boy through this. And with your Godly example, he will grow up to be a man of God!

  2. oldwoman says:

    Please, Please, Please take your 10 to a child psychologist and have him diagnosed. It sounds like he feels like all this is his fault, and it is not. It sounds to me like the beginnings of a personality disorder. Please get him some help!

  3. treyka says:

    He’s receiving professional care.

  4. Dawn says:

    Hey Sweet Tracie…LOVE this blog. I love the way you write. And of course I can relate to this one particularly well because we (Zach & I) struggle with these same issues….all of them! I’m so impatient, I’ve been praying about Zach too..and getting angry, too, that God hasn’t “done” anything yet! He’s DOING it, I’m sure. And I bet the work isn’t only on Zach. Headsmack….I can be a dumb-butt too!

  5. Tracie says:

    Aw! Dawn, you’re so kind. And I think Zach is wonderful, and so are you and Brian, and you’re doing a great job. And yeah, God’s doing his thing!

    Thanks for reading. You make me smile!

  6. holliswms says:

    Wow Tracie, I’m late reading this but I know we have most certainly been there a time or two or twenty thousand with Jadon and Caleb. Finding that balance between “typical” child expectations and helping them through this thing called life and childhood can truly be exhausting. Hang in there, and I love your honesty…

    (spoken from a husband whos wife is just as brutally honest!)

  7. treyka says:

    Thanks so much Hollis. I really appreciate your encouragement.

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