Beau's mother would say, "Cry softly!".
I say, "Have a happy heart".
All of these things, I am sure, grate on a child. Who wants to hear the same thing over and over again? All of these little sayings are rather hard to understand on one's own, especially if one is under the age of 4. Self-control is a virtue that I have to cultivate in my own so-called adult life every day. I can't expect my child to continually and satisfactorally "have a happy heart" just because I tell him or her to. What the heck does that even mean?
After another discipline session with my dear moody 4-almost-5-year-old son yesterday afternoon, I explained to him- again- that he needs to obey immediately, and with a happy heart.
Blank, teary stare.
OK, Mama. You can get through to this kid. Lord, I prayed, teach me so I can teach him. What do I say? I just kind of stared back at him for a minute.
He broke the staring contest. "Mom, I can't always have a happy heart. I just can't! Sometimes I am sad."
I glanced above his headboard, where I had posted three Scripture verses, sitting small and forlorn in the vast expanse of green wall above his bed.
16 Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 (1 Thess 5:16-18).
Ah. The Word of God never comes back void. How can we have a happy heart? By praying continually. By giving thanks in all circumstances. The children are familiar with giving thanks. Every day, we all tell God something we are thankful for, sometimes numerous times a day. This is mainly for the purpose of getting Mommy's heart in check while she feels overwhelmed or angry. The kids play along, usually enjoying this activity. Answers range from, "I'm thankful for this chocolate milk!" to "I'm thankful for Daddy!".
God was faithful to immediately answer my heart's prayer, giving me Scripture to teach with. And interestingly enough, as I tried to share this truth with an unsaved 4-year-old, God was working on my own stony heart too. I don't walk around joyful all the time. In fact, I was having a pretty crappy day yesterday. I yelled at all the kids before we even left the house at 8:30...for Bible Study. (Please, children, don't tell your teachers how Mommy yelled at you this morning already!) I didn't want to be back in my son's room for another discipline session. I just wanted to leave him in there for the rest of the day and go out back with some coffee to read a book. But the Lord was faithful to start working on my heart, showing me how to obey His command to be joyful continually.
So one of my little mental goals today is to not just tell the children to have happy hearts, but to show them through example- by praying aloud with them intermittently during the day and by giving thanks. Not because works please God, not to be some sort of pseudo-pious religious lady, but because my heart was changed ever-so-slightly yesterday and I want to reflect that back to my Father in gratitude.