I would like to tell you that I got up at 5:00 this morning to have devotional time with the Lord. I would like to say I was joyous for the new mercies that come every morning; that I awoke in the dark without an alarm, summoned by the gentle urging of the Holy Spirit.
But I would be lying.
Refining is the process of removing impurities or unwanted material, to improve or perfect by pruning or polishing. The Psalmist tells us that God has refined them as silver is refined. All the junk removed until just silver is left. We sing songs about God being our "refiners fire" with a tender and longing melody urging us toward the crucible of God.
And then there are children.
We have two of the sweetest most beautiful crucibles imaginable. BoyD really loves us. He wants to be around us all the time. Take showers with us. Sleep in our bed. The concept that Jenny and I existed before he did and will remain after he is grown and out of our home is as foreign to him as Quantum Physics. He simply has no concept. BabyM simply does the things that babies do. She wants only what she wants. Her desires are utterly paramount and any effort to thwart them is met with tears of frustration and, on occasion, outright anger.
I thought I was a jerk when I got married. I realized a new depth to my selfishness because there was this other person whom Jesus tells me I am one with and yet we did not always agree. It's a strange thing having to consider another person all the time and something no amount of books or counseling prepared me for. But Jenny is the most capable person I know. She gets herself dressed every single day. Puts her own food in her mouth. She can even make her own food. Actually, if I was not around, she would be doing just fine without me. She'd tell you different but those who know us realize I get the most out of our little arrangement. But God has used that relationship to refine me, to train me, to reveal the depth of my depravity and call me ever more to trust Him to be the man He wants me to be.
Then we had children. One at first. You see, they are takers, little children. They have to learn to give back. They are not born with the desire to serve. They cannot even go to the bathroom without my intimate involvement. I cannot even imagine being in Jenny's place: actually carrying our children in her body and then literally giving them the entirety of their sustenance from her own body. I have it really easy compared to moms. Which just reveals how very unlike Christ I am. How much I want to please myself, to have my way, to sleep when I want, to do what I want when I want to do it.
My son talks constantly. It's like being under a waterfall of words. He wants to hear stories. All day. He asks "why?" to every answer. He thinks my body is his personal toy. He wakes up at 5:00 and though we put him back to bed, eventually its light out and one of us gets up with him. He's whining at this very moment because he wants candy before breakfast. And I get tired and don't want to do those things because I am a selfish, human father. God has taught me patience through my son. He has taught me long suffering. He has taught me that my temper is a horrid thing that reeks of Hell destroys the things that are good. And He's working on me.
My daughter is gentle and tiny and tender. She shrieks and poops at inopportune times. She has my temper. And God has used to her teach me tenderness and kindness and gentleness. She doesn't like to be tossed in the air like her brother. She's delicate and girly. She also has an iron will which is difficult to manage for a 16 pound person. I have realized because of her that my anger is the manifestation of other things. Things that God wants to get rid of. To burn off. To refine away. And He has used my beautiful blue eyed girl to teach me.
God has taught me why it is so important to just obey Him and quit asking for explanations to justify by obedience. He knows what's best even if I don't understand and trusting Him is never blind because He loves me. God has taught me just a little more how much He must love us to call us His children. To deal with us all the time. Our tempers and tantrums and sleepless nights. I look at Him and realize He wants me to be like Jesus and then I realize that He is in the process of doing just that. It's just an ugly process. One that involves poop and crying. But one that involves being loved by a child. Maybe the purest love we have between us humans. And maybe God is using that to transform me as well.