I’m driving down a beautiful stretch of coastal highway, admiring the ocean view, when I hit something. I don’t know what it is, but all of a sudden my low-tire-pressure light is on. Feeling stressed, I pull over and pull out my phone. No service. Oh no, I guess I’m going to have to do this myself. Wait, I've never changed a tire before. I have no idea what I'm doing and I can’t even pull up YouTube. So, I think for a second, then open the glove compartment to find the owner’s manual. I think this is the first time I’ve ever even read the owner's manual. Thankfully, it has a section on how to change a tire. It directs me to where to find the spare tire, how to set up the jack and finally, how to put on the spare. After an hour or two, the job is complete and I’m back to driving safely down the road.
What would I have done if I didn’t have the tools to change the tire? What would I have done if I didn’t have any instructions? I would have felt stuck, stressed, and frustrated. Having the right tools and instructions when we feel stuck and can’t see any way forward is often all we need to turn things around.
For instance, I wonder what tools might help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your child’s behavior and feeling ready to lose your temper? Instead of getting stuck in the feelings of stress and frustration, what are tools that can help you be quick to listen and slow to become angry?
Thankfully, God has equipped us with all kinds of amazing tools to get us unstuck that cost us nothing to use.
If you are feeling stuck and your temperature rising, slow down and breathe. Take a 5-7-9 breath. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 7, and exhale for 9. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this gets you connected with the present moment. In fact, it will connect you with life itself. The Hebrew language has a single word for wind, breath, or spirit in English. The word translated as "breath" in the story of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 is the same word translated as "Spirit" in Genesis 1. It literally refers to the life God breathed into creation. The dry bones can take on tendons and skin, but without breath they remain just corpses. Yet, with breath, they live. Likewise, when we reconnect with our breath, we are reconnecting with our source of life. The God who breathed life into Adam and Eve is the same God breathing life into you today.
When I feel stuck, I’m usually listening to my inner-critic. He says things like, “You’re not a good enough parent” or “You’re a failure.” The more I listen to his voice, the more I feel like I’m powerless over my situation, but when I can take a step back and listen to the voice of God, I hear a different narrative. I hear things like, “You are my beloved child” or “You are made in my image.” It’s what Paul writes about to the Philippians. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things” (Phil 4:8). The devil loves to see you listening to your inner-critic, but God invites you into something so much kinder. As we listen to the kind voice of God, we will find that kindness flowing out of us and into our relationships.
So often, when we feel stuck, we are trapped in our own heads. The inner-critic has got us on speed dial and we don’t know how to hang up the phone. We lose perspective listening only to that voice. One of the best ways to unstick is to call a friend. Call or text someone to let them know how you are feeling, and that you just need someone else to know what’s going on. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. I do it all the time, and I’m amazed at how much kinder my friends are than my inner-critic is. And yes, it’s okay to do this in the bathroom when your child is yelling at you for not letting her watch more TV. A wise counselor can help us maintain a healthy perspective and discern where we need better boundaries. "Without counsel, plans fail; but with many advisers, they succeed" (Proverbs 15:22).
We are not the first generation of parents to feel like we are not getting it right. Ask your own parents what it was like when you were a toddler or even a teenager. Even God knows what it’s like to have disobedient children. Yet, he continues to meet us where we are at. So, perfect parenting isn’t be the goal, but good-enough parenting is.
Good-enough parenting remembers that your kids aren’t out to get you, even when it seems like it. Often times, as parents, we can take it personally when our kids are angry with us. The truth is that part of growing is testing boundaries, learning limits, and letting off steam. Our job is to be present and help them navigate their emotions, so that they can flourish. Often times, we are the safest place for them to feel all the emotions they tend to bottle up. We just need to take it one day or one moment at a time.
Some positive ways you can create a safe place for your child to let out all those emotions include inviting them to design a “happy place” in their room, so that they have a place to go when they are upset. Of course, be available if they need you, but sometimes kids need their own space. You could also get creative by processing some feelings with art. Messy finger paint is always a go too! You could even just invite them into the 5-7-9 breath with you. As you connect with each other in breathing, you might just find a way forward together as well.
In all these practices, we connect with ourselves, others and most importantly, God. He is abiding with us, so that even in the moments when we do feel stuck, we are never alone. We are being held by him. So, that means, if you don’t have the strength to practice breathing, meditation, or calling a friend, then know that our God accepts you in the midst of your pain. He is a faithful friend and will walk with us no matter what.
Rev. Travis Jamieson