I Can’t Do This On My Own!

My husband Warren and I, both of us well into (or beyond!) our 40’s, are raising a five-year-old boy. Both of us were previously married, and previously divorced. By God’s grace, though, this time we’re trying to approach things a little bit differently with our preschool son than we did with our older kids, insofar as for the first years of their lives, neither of us were trying very hard to raise our older kids “in the fear and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). As you can imagine, we rejoice in the chance to get it right this time while simultaneously living in the shadow of regret.

We’re grateful for any and all work the Lord is doing in the lives of our older kids, to be sure, but there are plenty of times when we also have those “If only I’d…” moments as we watch them try to figure out life as teenagers and young adults.

Eli is cut from the same cloth as his father in many ways. (And that statement cuts both ways, I am afraid.) He’s got a strong physical resemblance, and the same thick, wild hair, though Warren doesn’t allow his to grow long enough for you to see “wild”…just trust me. Eli’s got the same talent for mimicry – he can repeat lines from “Rio” and “Cars,” some of his favorite movies, getting the inflection just right and the facial expressions precise. He does an English accent better than I do – it’s humiliating, actually – and so it’s clear that he’s got his father’s “acting blood.”

He also has a short temper. This is something Warren has written about on ESI many times before, and openly admits to while facilitating DivorceCare class or whenever the topic of anger comes up. So we both are keen to help Eli recognize, understand, and go to God to help him deal with his tendency toward anger.

One of the routines we’ve put in place is to regularly point him to the fact that whatever unacceptable behavior he’s wrestling with is coming out of a heart of anger and selfishness, not love and kindness. We remind him that God calls him to obey Mommy and Daddy, and to be kind to everyone, and that he can only do that through a heart of love and kindness. Then we’ve often (though not always) prayed with him, asking God’s forgiveness for his anger (and ours) and His help to change his heart.

Recently, Eli was having a rough day. He’d been disciplined a couple times, and we’d barely made it past breakfast. I think both he and I were feeling a little defeated. After the third time, I again sent him to his room to await discipline. Before I went back to Eli’s room to yet again “deal with him,” though, I remembered that I hadn’t suggested to him that he pray and ask for God’s forgiveness.

So I did. I asked Eli if he wanted to pray and ask God to help him to obey and be kind. He said he did, and then he crawled up into my lap and articulated, all by himself, a simple prayer that brought tears to my eyes.

He said, “God, I’m sorry. Will you give me a kind heart and an obedient heart, and help me obey? I can’t do this on my own!

How often do we as adults forget to lean so heavily on God for all things? “I can’t do this on my own” should be my mantra from the moment I wake up. It should be tattooed on my arm. Here is a truth I know with my head, but so often find my heart operating outside of that truth, working independent of the reality that outside of God’s help, I will surely fail to please Him.

This morning, as I share this childlike prayer with you and repent of yet again trying to go through life in my own power, I encourage you to join me in repeating this prayer as soon as you feel your heart going south, in whatever situation you find yourself. “God, help me to please you in my response to this situation. I can’t do this on my own!”

Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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