Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Teachable Moment: Homework & Joy
Homework is in the air, and the air at my house is starting to stink.
My third grader posed a great deal of drama last night over hers. I witnessed one crying scene on the carpet, where every form of complaint about doing the work was voiced. Then a second crying bout ensued in her bedroom, where all words and sounds were muffled as her face was in a pillow. This was when my daughter lamented, "I feel like I'll never get to play again! (cry, sob, sniffle, sob, sob.)"
Somehow, and thankfully, the Holy Spirit was loud enough for me to tune in to Him, and I pushed down the inclination to amplify my case in favor of homework completion. I saw her with compassion. I put myself in her shoes. And I quietly sat down to talk.
I've been trying to be intentional lately about bringing more spiritual and Biblical truths into my parenting and saw this as a perfect opportunity to do so. I didn't plan it, and I didn't know where I was going to go with my little talk, but as always, I just started in, and God gave me the perfect words. (Love that about Him!)
We talked about jobs. God has given every person a job in this world. We talked about my jobs, daddy's jobs, and her jobs, which include being a student. I shared with her what I truly believe (though not always what I practice): God desires for us to not only accept the jobs He's given us, but also to work at them with joy. I'm not talking about feeling happy about them. Happiness is purely circumstantial; it works from the outside in. Joy is the opposite. It originates in the heart, and then works its beauty out into our circumstances. Joy radiates despite circumstances, and I like to think of it as having an attitude of peaceful satisfaction, no matter what. The satisfaction part comes from one thing alone, that we are right where God wants us to be, regardless of how comfortable that position is.
The more I thought about this today, the more I realized that outside of God and the Bible, true joy doesn't really exist as a concept. I think to most of the world, "joy" is like the Christmas version of "happiness". They are synonymous. And there exists no notion that one should have feelings of gladness or contentment when terrible things are taking place. To the rest of the world, emotions should directly line up with circumstances. If your circumstances stink, then you have every right to complain and pout about it until they change. I get it; to a non-believer, WHY NOT? Complaining makes me feel better. Fair enough.
But I am not a non-believer. I believe God is in charge of all things and has specific, good purposes for my life. And if THAT is true about me, then I need to know joy, and introduce joy to my children, because not all the jobs He has for me are fun. My kids will not have perfect, trouble-free lives either, and I want them to understand how important having a joyful attitude is with respect to hard work and perseverance.
My daughter was hung up on one problem: that her brother didn't have to work as hard as she did (because he is younger). Comparison. We ALL do it, wishing we were assigned the jobs or relationships or incomes or situations to which those around us have been assigned. Ours ALWAYS seem harder, in comparison. I totally get that. And so I could tell her how much I can relate. I also imagined with her what life would be like if I were always wishing I had someone else's job in life. How would that make God feel since He's given me some very special jobs? I was on my way to doing dishes and starting dinner. Neither are my favorite things - I told her I'd rather be doing other fun things - but I was going to go do them with joy, thankful that God has a purpose for me, and has given me a family to serve (again, not always the case with my own attitude!).
I told her that she was created for very special and specific jobs that were made for no one else. And even though some of them are tough, some of them are also fun. The point was that she could do her homework with joy, not because she liked to do it, but because she was doing the job God assigned her, and He always has good reasons for His assignments.
Last night, she seemed to take all this information in, quietly listening and nodding. Tonight, she did all her work with joy. Not a single complaint or tear. I got to praise her for that. (And then make sure I didn't gripe about the dishes.)
Here are a couple verses I try to repeat to my kids, training them in the area of attitude. But they need these truths delivered with a lot of grace, because I know how hard these instructions are to follow! At least quoting them helps me hear the words myself, because I certainly need the reminders.
"Do everything without arguing or complaining..." Philippians 2:13
"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Colossians 3:23