I can’t stop thinking about all the young families quarantined with their children right now. I’ve raised my children and am giddily awaiting the birth of my first grandchild. At this stage of life, there are no children in our home to feed, bathe, clothe, teach and generally tend to. All of these things require an enormous amount of love and patience even on the best days. I can only imagine the tension that could be building as pent up energy is not allowed to burn in the usual ways.
In my reading of James 3 this morning, I was reminded of a lesson God taught me when I was a mother of three young boys. My children were not doing what I asked them to do. They were wrestling and arguing and being loud, so I got louder, accomplishing nothing. I fled into my bedroom and shut the door and cried out to God, “They won’t listen to me unless I yell.”
God spoke gently to me, “Speak gently to your children. Your words should feel like cotton rubbing their skin.” So I asked, “Lord, what do my words feel like?” I heard, “Sandpaper.”
I went to the garage where I knew there was some sandpaper. Next, I went to my bathroom to grab a cotton makeup round. I rubbed the sandpaper on my arm. Harsh, hurtful, rough. Not something I wanted to continue. Then, I rubbed the cotton on my arm. Soft, smooth, gentle. I could handle that sensation all day.
At that moment, I knew I was supposed to keep this visual image before me. I decided to cut out a circle of sandpaper to match my makeup round. As I was about to cut, I heard God’s whisper again, “Cut the sandpaper into a heart. You think you are yelling because you love them, but it still hurts.”
I cut the sandpaper into a heart and placed it along with the cotton round into a baggie. I put it in my makeup drawer to see every morning as I was getting dressed. Some days I was already feeling the sandpaper. I would ask God to fill me with His Spirit, so we could have a cotton day.
It’s okay to struggle, especially in these troublesome times. I’m sure you’re finding it difficult to be alone and have a thought to yourself. Still, it’s important to make those moments happen.
If Susanna Wesley (who gave birth to nineteen children) could make time to talk to God, any of us can. The mother of John and Charles Wesley, Susanna was homeschooling her ten surviving children as well as running a farm. Her husband was often traveling. Her prayer closet was a long apron she would lift over her head, which signaled to her children that she was not to be disturbed. God only knows what desperate prayers she must have cried out underneath the covering of that apron. I imagine she sometimes just sat with God, allowing Him to remind her she was seen, and loved, and lovely.
Your children are being given a unique opportunity to see you spend time with God during this season. I bet they notice the difference when you do.
Can both cotton and sandpaper come from the same mouth? James asked a similar question in Chapter 3, verse 11. ‘Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?’ James says it happens, but it should not be (verse 10).
What do we choose to believe about our identity?Are we a saltwater or a fresh spring?Are we sandpaper or cotton?Are we orphans or beloved daughters?
Whatever we believe about ourselves is the spring that will flow from our mouths. Do you desire cotton days? I encourage you to make your own sandpaper heart and cotton round as a visual reminder. During these long days at home, I pray we will all take moments to allow God to fill us with His tender love. Then, let that love flow to our children like a fresh spring.
I wish you a cotton day.