“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” – Ephesians 4:1-2
Every once in a while I wish I were in high school again. That blessed time was the last time in my life where I knew a decent amount of academic content and had just about no responsibility to go with it. As an adult, I am responsible to deal with my relationships, challenges, disappointments and triumphs in a way that reveals my love for and trust in the Lord. This is how I “walk worthy of the calling with which I have been called.” But as a mom, I have to do all that while helping my kids learn to do the same thing in their own tangle of ups and downs. Soon after the arrival of my two adopted daughters, I realized I must have gotten the wrong meaning out of Ephesians 4:1-2, since doing what I had done pre-kids wasn’t happening quite the same as a parent. Then, after the birth of our third daughter (our first biological child), it was pretty clear that walking worthy was probably something God intended for people who either weren’t parents, or were empty-nesters. With all the drama created by three daughters (and their mom…) helping them deal with frustration while their behavior tests every fiber of my trying-to-walk-worthy being is a huge struggle!
In case I thought I could try and walk worthy on my own strength, our 5 1/2-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For those who haven’t experienced raising a child with an emotional disorder, it basically means that since we brought our Neveah home 3 years ago, screaming, threats, hour-long tantrums and periodic violence have frequently punctuated the otherwise normal (!) life of raising a family with three young girls. No amount of intentional, specialized counseling, parenting strategies and learning has made it go away. Besides basic Biblical principles regarding our attitude and behavior toward others as believers, the Bible doesn’t tell me exactly how to “walk worthy” in raising her or helping maintain a thriving home despite it all. Medication is helping, but it still gets on everyone’s nerves when our daughter instantly catapults into a rage for no apparent reason. Since receiving her diagnosis, my job switched from primarily coping with and protecting siblings from Neveah to coaching her in how to manage her own tendancy to overwhealm easily. This is not an easy walk – for me or, certainly, for Neveah and her siblings.
Recently, I have found that my feet want to stay in bed rather than “walk worthy of the calling” God’s given to our family. Mornings with bipolar are no fun because of the unpredictable nature of the disorder in children. Will the house wake to peace and calm, or whining, screaming, and threats? Will she say, “Good morning, Mommy. I love you,” or “I hate you! You are ugly and I wish you weren’t my mom!” When it’s the first response, there is a moment of peace. I don’t trust it, so I’ve learned just to smile and nod, but at least there is peace for a little while. If it’s the second response, I struggle to repress my own anger and resentment as I attempt to help her calm down or consequence whatever behavior has hurt someone else. Some days I walk worthy, and I respond not to her words and actions, but to the little girl inside who God loves and chose specifically to bless and grow our family. Other days I walk right into the pit that lays before me as fatigue, anger and hurt boil into a caustic internal stew, ready to spill out on everyone nearby. Sometimes I start walking the wrong way, catch myself and switch directions mid-step.
I’ve often wondered whether walking worthy of the calling only applies when I feel full of joy and know with certainty I am doing what God wants of me. I’m a pretty dynamic person about things that excite me, and like most moms out there, I have to admit that a lot of parenting is NOT exciting. It is down-right hard, confusing and isolating a lot of the time. When I feel bad that I don’t always walk through my day with a heart of total love and acceptance for my kids, and for Neveah in particular, the second part of the verse above puts a spring back in my step. I walk worthy when I am humble, gentle, patient… and when I tolerate my little ones in a loving way. Yes, the verse actually means God’s asking us to endure people in our lives when the circumstance calls for it. He knows that sometimes it boils down to that. That’s great news for me as I respond to my oldest daughter’s needs and raise all my girls – it takes a weight off my shoulders so I can walk further, and in a manner worthy of the calling with which I have been called.
Now, if I could only find my shoes….