Romans 12: 16-18, 20 says, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…”
Yesterday morning I fed my enemies. I fed them Apple Jacks…
Before you think I’ve lost my mind referring to my children as my enemies, Bob Goff in Walk in Grace, Walk in Love puts it well when he says, “I think we water down Jesus’ call to love our enemies by thinking of them in broad and extreme categories, like people in countries we’re at war with. Terrorists, leaders of drug cartels, criminals who have done great harm…Here’s the thing: I think our enemies aren’t just the extreme examples that come to mind. They are the people who make us crazy…They’re are the ones we enjoy the least and disagree with the most.”
Unfortunately, Lilly and Marcus sometimes fall into that category for me. They’re the “love your enemy” that are always right in front of me, always needing something, always stretching the capacity of my love tank. And yesterday I was on the battlefield. The lines were clearly drawn, and there wasn’t a lot of love to come by on my side.
I wish there was something more grandiose to report that happened that caused the battle to begin. But instead, it was a million tiny things that added up. Like Marcus’ latest behavioral tick of snorting deeply through his nose literally on cue every three seconds. Or like Lilly’s constant trying to one up Marcus. Or their constant bickering with one another. Or both of them constantly following and hovering around me. So I spent the day feeling like there was a pinch on my heart--just annoyed by everything.
At one point I walked out onto the patio with my tea and journal to try to get a moment to myself. Lilly came right out after me. She put her arms around me for a hug, which I returned in a half-hearted fashion—just to pacify her. I eventually came back inside and, believe it or not, we did make it through the day. I did my best, but man, was the aggravation level high. Some days I can channel Jesus a little easier and yesterday was not that day. Some days I find the silver linings easier, and some days I just get to the end and say, “Well that sucked.”
Chris, my husband, is always my best champion on days like those. Days when I run up the stairs to our bedroom where he’s currently working from home and grit the words through my teeth, “I’m going to lose it.” He listens and asks if I want help problem solving or if I just need to vent. He’s also great at giving me perspective when I’m hard on myself and feel like I’ve barely crawled through the day.
I needed him to do just that at dinner yesterday. We usually put a timer on during dinner to help Lilly stay on track; otherwise, she gets distracted and disinterested in the vegetables on her plate and will drag on dinnertime until it’s time for bedtime prep. Yesterday we happened to be having dessert, but the deal for Lilly is that dinner must be finished before the timer beeps in order for her to get it. So needless to say, the timer beeped and she had one bite of kale left on her plate. Ooohh there was a part of me that wanted to be a hard ass and say, “Sorry, no dessert.” But I didn’t. I said, “Alright, Lil, finish that bite really quick and you can have dessert.” She did.
It shouldn’t have taken as much effort as it did for me to show grace for that one little bite of kale, but it took determination. At that moment, I would have enjoyed her disappointment in not getting dessert. It would have felt like vindication for an entire day’s worth of annoyance. There’s a German word schadenfreude that means “to delight in the troubles of another.” Yup, that was me at 6:45pm yesterday…nearly experiencing schadenfreude over the possibility of a six-year-old not getting dessert...
Chris looked at my face, saw what it took for me to give that “yes” for her to be allowed to finish after the timer beeped, and he said one simple phrase that he repeats to me often when I’m in the dumps about the day or my “mom performance.” He simply said, “1% better.”
That is our motto not only in this adoption process but also in life. It doesn’t matter how awful you think you’ve done; you go out there again and just do 1% better, give 1% more. It may not seem like much, but those 1%’s add up. As Vince Lombardi said, “Inches make champions.” As recounted in the devotional Days of Healing. Days of Joy, “[Lombardi] thought success was a matter of inches. A bit more concentration, one extra push in practice, a consistent second effort for a tiny additional gain. He didn’t ask his players to be something other than they were—he asked them to improve their best an inch at a time. He knew inches add up, in life as in sports.”
I can’t say I felt much like a champion yesterday, but I gave my inch. Allowing Lilly to finish that one last bite of kale was my 1% better. It was a “yes” when I could have said “no.” There were a lot of parenting stumbles yesterday, but in that moment, there was 1% better. Not perfection but an inch forward.