Exasperate… The word itself sounds exhausting doesn’t it? Webster’s defines exasperate as: to enrage, cause irritation or annoyance or excite the anger of. Ephesians 6:1 tells us not to exasperate our children, but instead to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
At first blush when I read this verse I thought maybe Paul really meant to tell children not to exasperate their parents, but then the Holy Spirit got a hold of me. No, I’m the exasperater. It brings me no joy in saying that I’ve already exasperated my kids more times than I could count, and they’re not even in double digits yet.
I guess the time that sticks out the most is when, in my anger and frustration, I tried to nag and lecture my then 7-year-old daughter into obeying me. This was one of my classic parenting fails. I attempted to coerce my daughter into behaving the way I want through the use of “God guilt.” I lectured her that she should be trying to make Jesus happy with how she lived and I tried to guilt her into obeying by using the “S Word” – selfish.
Let’s just say my way of parenting did not bring about the intended results. Not only did my daughter not behave the way I wanted her to, but she stuffed a piece of humble pie down my throat in the process. Her response to me was: “Enough with all the ‘God Stuff.’ It’s too much God stuff and it’s not helping!” At that moment, staring at my baby girl, I saw that she was filled with bitterness and rage, and I knew then why God commands us not to exasperate our children. The parenting fail that I demonstrated not only pushed my daughter further from me, but it was pushing her away from God as well. At face value, everything that I told her was accurate, but she was in no place to hear it at that moment. In all honesty, I was in no place to tell it to her.
How could I have handled this situation differently? It all starts and ends with the heart. My heart was not in the right place to discipline my daughter that day, and as parents it is our duty to make sure that our hearts are in the right place. After all, parenting is a 24/7 job.
Instead of keeping my eyes on Christ and looking to please him, I was more concerned with my own desires for peace and quiet. No, I didn’t have my devotions that morning. No, I didn’t take any time to self-reflect or, more importantly, let the Holy Spirit show me where selfishness was seeping into my soul. Instead I tried to parent (and discipline) in my pride and selfishness using only the little power that I possessed on my own. This was a recipe for disaster.