I sat in the middle of the floor fuming, absolutely fuming, as I picked up each card and slid it into the appropriate box. The anger burned inside my chest, radiating heat all the way up to my cheeks. My brow was permanently furrowed, my lips pursed as tight as I could hold them together, my jaw beginning to ache from clenching my teeth.
Every time I felt the first cleansing effects of a deep breath, all I had to do was look around me to find my fury. After all, everyone knows the expression: “Hell hath no fury like a mother left to clean up others’ messes” (Or something like that). And what a mess I was left!
I only have a picture because I wanted evidence of my rotten week for my husband, my husband who was out-of-town for the majority of the nightmare.
We had already cleaned up half of this mess once before. When I caught my son taking down his father and my games, I quickly admonished him to put them away. Of course he didn’t, as his little body was overtaken by a demon the moment his father walked out the door and headed to the airport, and his curious sister got into some of the cards from the various boxes. At this point, I joined them on the floor and began cleaning up the mess with them, lest things got too out-of-hand.
We stopped only to eat dinner, and as I packed away leftovers, they were to resume where we had left off. Apparently, my instructions were not clear, and they resumed where they had left off before I had intervened.
Every. single. card. of every. single. game. was on the floor.
Normally, I leave my kids’ messes for them to clean up, but this mess was too overwhelming, too vast, and I had to rid all evidence of this day before I tried to manage another day alone with them.
As I followed the kids upstairs, the anger burned inside me. And while I didn’t lose my temper, I definitely used it, reminding my son a half a dozen times how furious I was at him for his behavior this week, threatening the other two if they didn’t move quickly. I wanted them to go to bed and not talk to me until the morning. Of course, they didn’t comply with that request, either. We went upstairs at 6:30, and it was 8:30 before my kids were finished ‘getting ready’ for bed and another half an hour before the first fell asleep. My son decided that 10:30 would work for his bedtime that night.
And in the meantime, I sat in the middle of the floor putting card after card in its appropriate box, all the while fuming and steaming over all the reasons this mess was my husband’s, the man who had not been at our home for the last three days, fault. After all, who better to blame than the man who is out-of-town?
I had completely convinced myself that Matt was to blame for this mess, and as I sat for an hour and 15 minutes cleaning up these games, I decided that I no longer liked him.
Whenever Matt’s away, the kids act like monsters. Or if one of them is good (thank you, sweet Hannah Grace) the others make up for it. Who wouldn’t get angry at kids who behave this way?
I had enough sense to text Matt: “You know when I try to go to bed. Don’t call me.” Even though I wasn’t in bed, I didn’t think I should talk to Matt. Remember, I didn’t like him anymore, and I didn’t think I should tell him that.
So, of course, Matt called me. And I wasn’t nice.
But in my defense, I warned him not to call! I knew I was angry and couldn’t be nice, so he can’t really blame me for my less-than-loving tone.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought about how I allowed a mess of cards (albeit the worst mess of cards I’d ever seen) to create enough rage in me to kill a man. I allowed my fatigue and frustration to cloud my mind into thinking I disliked my husband. And I had created enough excuses to prove I was right.
In that moment, I had my first glimpse into how self-control really works.
Self-control isn’t just making good choices; self-control is eliminating excuses.
I lost my temper because my kids were out-of-control.
I’m so weary because my husband is out-of-town.
I’m having a cheat day today, but I’ll get back on my diet tomorrow.
These shoes were on sale, so it’s okay that I bought them (even though I already own 100 pairs).
And pretty soon, we believe the excuses and justify our behavior.
I lay in bed that night, nauseous and tired, holding on to my last thread of anger for one more moment. I thought about my husband whom I wanted to blame, my kids who were at fault for a mess (a huge one) but not for my anger, and I released them. If I wanted control of myself in the morning, I had to own up to myself that night.
I closed my eyes and said ‘goodnight’ to a horrible day and ‘goodnight’ to my excuses. And I drifted off to (a very short) sleep.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine
What are your go-to excuses for bad behavior? Leave a comment below, or link up your own post on ‘self-control!’ Thank you for joining me over the last few weeks as we explored the different fruits of the Spirit. I am worn out from God’s conviction! Stay tuned for more details as to what we’ll contemplate next in ‘Journeys’!