There’s this thing that happens when you read a story out loud to your kids. It hits you in a different way than it ever would had you been reading quietly to yourself.
Sometimes the blow is a rush of emotions that makes you tear-up against your wishes. And sometimes the blow comes with the stinging pain of conviction.
Take, for example, a recent Christmas read-aloud.
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
…he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
I have to admit, I can relate.
There’s something about December that seems to stir my children up to a level of hyper-activity unknown the rest of the year. Maybe it’s the sugar. Maybe it’s the seasonal excitement. Maybe it’s the lack of sunshine … or a lack of training.
Whatever the cause, I recently found myself growling and nervously drumming, eager to squash the noise, noise, noise from my boys, boys, boys at our homeschool group’s recent visit to the local nursing home.
We come to play instruments, we come to spread cheer,
We come to sing hymns to the folks gathered here.
Like the Whos down in Whoville, we’re a jovial lot,
But the Grinch Mama among us most certainly is not.
Her children are happy but she can’t rejoice
Because of their bouncing, their climbing, their noise.
It’s easy to characterize my children’s behavior as “horrible” when they have been nothing but jovial, albeit a bit careless and wild. It’s the careless and wild part that I know needs wise attention and careful training in the long run, but in the moment it gets my evil eye and sharp repremand, throwing gentleness and patience to the wind.
All I lack is green fur to adorn my furrowed brow.
I’m not against correcting children in public, mind you, but what really needed correcting in this case was my attitude.
Maybe I should just go get the T-shirt, because that is apparently a thing.
Let’s hold that thought.
While it may be hip and humorous right now to wear our worst attitudes on our sleeves, or even boldly screenprinted on the front of our shirts, these tendencies we (cough, cough, I) have toward grumpiness, selfishness, and stinginess are not acceptable. Let’s call it like it is: sin. That may sound harsh, but it’s actually quite hopeful.
But before we get there we have to recognize that mere authenticity isn’t a virtue. We have to bring Truth to bear on the mess in which we find ourselves. This is why the Scriptures are compared to a mirror–God’s Truth shows us what’s in our hearts (and more imporantly, what’s in His) so that we can, by His grace and in the power of His Spirit, deal with it.
No Mama I’ve ever met finds a rat in her kitchen and decides to make a comfortable bed for it on the counter. Eeew.
If we pursue authenticity as a “righteous” end in itself we risk becoming people who glory in our shame on principle–as though the right response to a bad attitude is to give it a pat on the back. Instead we must recognize that being honest with ourselves is just an initial step toward repentance and growth in Christ.
Acknowledging there’s a rat in the kitchen is just an initial step to removing it and disinfecting.
If we are honest about who we are, Grinch and all, and meet that honesty with the Truth, then we can have hope of both forgiveness for sin and strength for the fight. Then we can know not just ourselves in our futility and weakness, but God in His sovereignty and strength.
This is why I’m saying, “Goodbye, Grinch Mama,” even if I have to say it daily (or perhaps on the hour). She may be at times an accurate depiction of my selfish heart, but she isn’t welcome to stick around. By the grace of God, she’s shown the door as I seek the Lord to produce the fruit of His Spirit in her place.
The Grinch in our picture book comes to see that Christmas isn’t about all the materialistic things he had taken away from the Whos. The joy and celebration still comes despite his efforts to the contrary.
“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
His small heart grows three times bigger as a result, and yet, somehow I don’t think it works quite that way for me. My problem isn’t the size of my heart, it’s the content and focus.
Dr. Seuss was on to something, but heart change, perhaps, means a little bit more.
I’d like to say goodbye to her once and for all, that Grinch, but I know it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-noisy-moment repentance and God-oriented faithfulness I need.
The children kept bouncing, and scolding she gave them
‘Til she saw that her anger indeed woud not save them
‘Twas grace that enveloped her more than the sound
Of jubilant voices and greetings all ’round
Grace that proved greater than sin or her goal
Of well-behaved children and a sense of control
She yet could not muster a match for their glee
But a heart now contrite was a sight for to see
“Merry Christmas,” she offered, remembering the One
Who loved a Grinch Mama by sending God’s Son.
These boys… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of children.
This time of year… So much joy, so much hustle and bustle, so much noise. It’s the way of celebration.
Do I make room for such as these? As we welcome the Lord Jesus as a child, am I welcoming my children in His name? Do I make room for the celebration of the Lord, be it a bit more rowdy at times than solemn?
I can’t hold on to my Grinch Mama and answer positively. She’s got to go.