So, I’m not the most patient mom in the world (that’s shocking news, I’m sure). I really struggle with some of my children’s behaviors. Last night I was offering up my standard prayer – “please soften my heart towards my children, please help me feel about them the way You feel about them” and the thought came into my head, “You are the ungrateful servant”.
Here’s the reference for that thought. Matthew 18:23-33. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”
I feel like I’m a bundle of weakness and faults. There is so much that I daily need forgiveness for and patience with as I try (I feel mostly unsuccessfully) to overcome. I feel like there is a common refrain in my prayers – “yeah, I messed up again – for the one millioneth time – but I REALLY want to do better, I’m REALLY trying, please give me another chance, even though I’m embarrassed to even be asking”.
But I’m like that ungrateful servant because I have children who are doing the very same thing with me (o.k. – probably not asking overtly for another chance, but still – I know they need more chances because frankly we all do). And my response is to yell at them and be exasperated and ask with that sarcastic voice, “just how many more times are you going to do this??” as if I’m not already struggling with my million and oneth time of failing at whatever it is that I’m just not making progress with.
I’ve certainly studied this scripture passage before. I know all about the principle that we must forgive if we expect to be forgiven. This insight isn’t really something new – it just feels really personal now – like it’s more than just forgiveness, it’s also patience and compassion. I especially liked that the word “patient” is used twice. Change is SLOW. The things that I’m working on might take me fifty years to truly master. Patience isn’t just this nice characteristic that means we can wait in the doctor’s office without getting frustrated. It means waiting years for someone to stop doing things that hurt you. It means having faith and hope in the process of repentance even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening or indeed has ever happened. We have huge “debts” – things that are part of us that we want or need to get rid of that don’t want to go. It’s a massive undertaking that we could never do without God’s patience and His willingness to forgive the debt – the pain, the frustration, the unkindness. And I’ve been doing a pretty crummy job of emulating His patience and compassion with my own children.
The really difficult thing is that there are years of habits and patterns here – and changing them isn’t going to happen overnight, even though I really want them to now that I’ve had this “light bulb” moment. I’m still frustrated and hurt and impatient. But I hope that seeing things as they really are will help me start making the changes that I need to make to be more like God and less like that ungrateful servant.