God's alternative to revenge is not truce or standoff or cold war or isolationism. It's forgiveness.
- author Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
The day does not start in a lovely way, and as we roll through the morning, the unlovely gathers momentum.
The boys stayed up too late last night, and the rush to make an 8 a.m. piano lesson doesn’t bring a beautiful sound. My youngest hasn’t been feeling well and neither he nor I have rested. Two brothers pick at each other like it’s a sport. Tempers are short and words are sharp, and the grumpiness flows through our schoolroom.
“Mom, he’s humming and I can’t do my math.”
“Please don’t hum while your brother is working.”
“I can’t do my math because he took my pencil.”
“If you’ve taken something that isn’t yours, please return it now.”
The aggravations are petty. Constant. Tiny stabs at one another until I begin to unglue. Soon I’m bristly and agitated and sharp-tongued, too. I breathe deep. Gather the boys. We talk about peacekeeping. The weight of words. Loving others. We talk about golden apples in settings of silver and gentle answers that turn away wrath. But the pokes and prods continue and the unpleasant rumbles on.
I’ve had it, I think. What’s up with these behaviors? What have I done wrong?
Then it’s open season on my heart. The enemy uses this doubt as an in-route and I’m riddled with flaming arrows of blame. Maybe if I’d taught my kids this way. Maybe if I’d done that? I think of our peers. Other families whose kids are probably sitting in their chairs like angels. I imagine halos and harps.
There is no one righteous. Not one.
I troubleshoot for what seems a short eternity (though it’s really only a couple of hours), and I’m nearing the end of my wits, the end of my frazzled rope, when the phone rings. I grab it fast. Maybe it’s my mom. Or a friend. Some seasoned mama-soul willing to listen to my woes.
But it’s not.
It’s my oldest son.
And I can tell by his voice that he doesn’t have much time.
“Hey, Mom. Love you. I’m in between classes ,” he says. “May I have a quick chat with Zay?”
“Isaiah?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “You mentioned yesterday that he’s not feeling well. I just want to check in.”
Standing there, phone in hand, something in my heart shifts. My college-age son is on the line, reaching into his brother’s life. I remember that there were tough, bottom-of-the-barrel days when I was raising him, too. But it all turned out well. God was with us–sometimes right in the middle of the mess. Helping us push through the rough spots. Shaping our character. Smoothing our rough places. Bringing well-needed grace–just like he brought this call today.
Surely the Lord is with us.
Isaiah and Logan talk for just a moment. Then Zay hands me the phone. Logan’s no longer on the other end. He’s off to class. On to the next thing.
But it’s OK.
This sweet son helped me to remember that the Lord is here. Days like this are just a part of life.
And in grace and mercy, God is not finished with us yet!
Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny have been married for twenty-five years. They have five sons and raise their bevy of boys in an old Victorian near the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Their sons, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah, range in age from twenty-one to six with Shawnelle home teaching the youngest three.
Shawnelle has been writing for six years, contributing regularly to Guideposts magazine, Daily Guideposts devotional and other inspirational publications. She would say that life with her men moves faithfully, on fast forward. But it’s her heart’s desire, her passionate prayer, to see God’s goodness and glory in the fullness of her days. She longs to see Him in the unexpected moments, unexpected places, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and bringing quiet, sustaining grace.