Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. Matthew 12:33
Saturdays are tough in the suburbs. Things get a little tense when you cram a bunch of cranky people in an SUV and shuttle them around town to soccer and volleyball games, the school district art fair, grocery shopping at two different stores (because prices), and a trip to Hobby Lobby for looming birthday party décor. Really, our “problems” aren’t even problems. But we still have problems.
She didn’t listen to me, didn’t react at all.
We were coming out of an art fair at the high school and my mom and husband were walking just ahead of the girls and me. I ran into a friend and exchanged a quick hug and hello on the front steps of the school. Phil and my mom crossed the street and stood in the parking lot. Then I saw a car coming out of the corner of my eye and knew I needed to shift my attention.
I waved bye to my friend and called out to Baby Girl, “Stop, baby.” Little Girl is a rule-follower, but Baby Girl is a rule-tester/breaker/steamroller. So Baby Girl is the one we have to watch in traffic and everywhere. She didn’t listen to me, didn’t react at all. She was still cruising toward the street and the car was still coming.
She paused this time and turned back to me. The car is still coming, slower now. Like me, the driver thinks there’s no way she would dart into the street now, not after she acknowledged her hollering mama, but also like me, he isn’t convinced she’s going to stay put on the curb either. She looks up at me and smiles as I stumble down the steps. Then she whips back around, hops off the curb and starts running through the street.
At this point, I should have told her to run faster. Instead: FULL PANIC. “STOP! STOP!! STOP!!!!!”
She makes it across the street, the car passes, and she giggles, “Sorry!”
I was furious. And it didn’t stop in the parking lot. It made zero sense to me. It was dangerous and disrespectful (and dumb- but I showed a little restraint and didn’t call her dumb) and I didn’t understand who would ever or why ever. My tension filled the car to the roof, Phil tried to diffuse, and I flat refused. Knowing I was off the handle and firm in my flight, I insisted on knowing why. “This is the third time this week I’ve had to have this talk with you about running in front of cars. Why? Why would you do that? Why don’t you listen to me? Why do we have this same problem all the time? Why, why, why?”
And she spoke.
She usually ignores me when I get like this and I don’t blame her. But this time she didn’t. This time she was quiet, focused, and listening. I felt like she might actually answer me so I stopped pleading and just stared at her, waiting. And she spoke. “Because you don’t play with me.”
Gut punch. Cold look in the mirror. All the force behind my argument hung in the air and I had to decide what to do with it. A lump jumped in my throat. You could still argue it was very dangerous. That’s a valid point. No one could blame you for that.
I watched her lower lip tremble and tears well behind smudged lenses. Phil should have stood up for you. He should have told her you are right. He’s always on their side.
I tried to remember the last time I stopped and played with her. Yes, I am with her all the time. But the last time we played a game, or I pushed her on the swing, or we just sat and read a book together? It had been weeks since she and I had quality time together. As of late, I ushered her to play with her friends or her sister. I shooed her while I try to cook or do my hair. But when was the last time I—You do everything for them. They wouldn’t be able to survive without you. There’s so much more you could do and you don’t because of them. They should be more grateful.
That voice again. HUSH. I know what I should do.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
My sweet as pie, soul is on fire, joyful little girl. Her bones were fine but her heart was breaking right in front of me. Why would she listen to her mother if she didn’t feel heard? Why would she trust a mother who doesn’t take time for her heart? It’s futile to even speak of joy if I’m not spreading it. It’s fruitless.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing. John 15:5
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. Galatians 5:22
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3
If I listened to that voice in my head, the hurt would have spread. It wouldn’t have been done with us until we were all in a puddle or a heap or a blazing fire. I had a choice and I chose something that does not come naturally to me- listening to this new heart. The one that speaks of gentleness. And patience. And peace. Those I have to study and learn and relearn. I certainly haven’t mastered them yet. But in knowing the Master chose to lower Himself to slave out of love, surely I could apologize to and ask forgiveness from Baby Girl. Then turn and do it differently than before. So I did. Because I want to make the tree good.