A Lot Like Me

If you’ve read any number of my blog posts, you may have noticed several references to music by Sara Groves, a wonderful singer whose lyrics seem meant just for me. I’ve been thinking lately about a song of Sara’s called “A Lot Like Me,” which explores a topic of parenting that most people don’t talk about—those personality traits you pass down to your kids that you really wish you didn’t.

Here’s how her song begins:

Baby I’m afraid you’re a lot like me
You can’t help feeling everything
I can see you’re trying to hold it in
I see your eyes and your trembling chin

So for you and myself I will pray
That our weakness become our strength!

I’ve been noticing lately that Wyatt has a pretty quick temper, and this is an aspect of my own personality that I’ve struggled with for years. I don’t get violent or scream or throw pots and pans, but I do huff and puff at pretty inconsequential things, and I definitely say things in the heat of the moment that I later regret. (As my friend Annie would say, “So many swear words!”)  :-)

In recent months, I’ve noticed some of these same tendencies in Wyatt (not the swearing, thankfully, since he’s only four).  As an example, he’ll be playing with his train set, perfectly happy, and then seconds later, he’s screaming and crying because his train track has fallen apart. It seems like such a little thing—so easily fixed—but he absolutely comes unglued, and it pains me to see him struggle with unnecessary frustration and anger just the way I do.

I guess this flaw must be genetic, because I know my dad also grapples with it, and he spends time in prayer every day on this very subject. I suppose I could look at my dad’s difficulties in overcoming his quick temper, and I could despair of Wyatt and I ever conquering our own. But a conversation I had with my dad this morning made me think in a very different way.

I have a person in my life who is giving me a lot of grief, and I’ve been feeling a mixture of anger, frustration and hopelessness over it all. I was talking to my dad about it this morning, and he listened to everything, agreeing for the most part with my assessment of the situation. But when I’d finished rattling off my story, he put a challenge out to me that I wasn’t entirely prepared for. He urged me to forgive. Even if the circumstances are never set right, I need to forgive.

Dad also cautioned that, if I’m anything like him (and I’m a lot like him), I may find it difficult to forgive. But a good place to start, he said, is in remembering that I, too, am a flawed and sinful person. And when you approach the hard work of forgiving someone by understanding that you are also very imperfect, it makes the goal of forgiveness much more attainable.

This conversation has been rolling around in my mind for the last several hours, and I’ve realized something remarkable about my dad: his long-time struggle to overcome his quick temper has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse in that he battles this issue every day, just as I do, and just as Wyatt may, too. But also a blessing in that his awareness of his own flawed nature perhaps makes him more capable of forgiving others because he approaches forgiveness with prayerful humility. 

Dad and I may never totally master our tempers, and Wyatt may very well inherit “the bug,” too. But as Sara Groves says, perhaps this weakness in some way becomes our strength. We’ll always have to work at staying cool in stressful situations, taming our sharp tongues and keeping frustration at bay. But out of this struggle, God will manage to bring about something good, and that’s pretty amazing.

As Sara Groves sings to her own son in “A Lot Like Me”:

Baby there are some holes you just can’t fill
You try and try but you never will
Baby I believe a God who can
He loves the boy and He’ll love the man

So for you and myself I will pray
That our weakness become our strength!

— Sarah