The Crucible of Family

By: Shannon Popkin

DSC_2100My husband and I recently enjoyed a restful weekend away. We basked in beautiful scenery, interruption-free discussions, and the slower pace we had been craving. Before heading home, we took a walk on a golf course, which was beautifully framed with fall colors. As we drank in the orange hues, we prayed together. I asked God for help to love our precious kids well, and for discernment to discipline them wisely.

I sighed as we got in the car, and said, “Thanks, Babe. I feel ready to go be a good mom.” Ken squeezed my knee and pointed the car toward home.

Four hours later, he called to me from the living room, saying, “Shannon, stop!”  I was right in the middle of bawling my daughter out for leaving her swim bag in the middle of the kitchen floor again.

I stopped, midsentence, stunned. I couldn’t believe it. My anger over the swim bag had spiked just as intensely as if I had been in the thick of mothering for the past three days. It was as if the peaceful getaway and my parental resolve had happened four years ago, not four hours ago. How could my good intentions dissipate so quickly?

While weekend getaways are wonderful, they don’t solve the mess waiting for me at home. I am a sinful, selfish mom living in a house with four other sinful, selfish people. I tend to yell, manipulate, and/or do whatever else I can think of to squeeze my family into this tidy little image of the perfect family, which I store in my head and refer to on a moment-by-moment basis. My mental image has been  deeply influenced by Pinterest, Focus on the Family broadcasts, and staged Facebook photos—and does not allow for random swim bags on the kitchen floor.

But my family provides something that a weekend away can’t: They make me aware of my sinfulness. As my husband and I walked along the golf course that morning, I saw myself as a godly mom, ready to serve her family, come what may. But my spike of anger in the kitchen, which instantaneously melted my resolve, gave me a truer picture of my heart.

On the Desiring God blog, Jon bloom says that family is often a ‘crucible of grace, a place where the heat of pressure forces sin to surface, providing opportunities for the gospel to be understood and applied.”

The basic message of the Gospel is that I am a sinner, I cannot save myself, and in his mercy Jesus cancelled my shame and infused the power of his Spirit into my heart, enabling me to love unselfishly. I can enjoy this truth like beautiful scenery when I’m on the golf course. But back in the crucible of my kitchen, I get to live it out.

Thank you, Lord, for family. Without them, I wouldn’t be nearly as aware of my sin and my need for You. May the power that raised Jesus from the dead be the power that raises me to be a godly wife and mom.

img_9169BSHANNON POPKIN is a writer and speaker from Grand Rapids, MI. She and her husband Ken have been married for 17 years, and in that time their kids (ages 15, 13, and 9) have diligently plucked them clean of pride, but have also filled their nest with deep joy and satisfaction. Connect with Shannon at her blog, Tiny Paragraphs 

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