Reacting and Not Responding

New post up at WORLD Mag today.


It never fails: When my husband goes out of town something unfortunate usually happens around here. Something that forces me to put on my grown-up shoes and act like an adult. Something like having a child slice off the tip of her finger.

This happened almost two weeks ago. The girls and I had just returned home from their choir performance and, while I was taking the dog out, my 10-year-old made a poor decision to play with my rotary cutter. A rotary cutter looks like a pizza cutter, but it has a much, much sharper blade. It’s for cutting fabric. She was cutting fabric with it until suddenly she wasn’t.

My 11-year-old came running outside yelling, “MOM! COME QUICKLY! CHLOE CUT HERSELF WITH YOUR SEWING BLADE!”

I didn’t run, but I did speed up my pace. I put the dog in her kennel and walked up the stairs. I saw her in the bathroom and blood was everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I wasn’t sure how bad the cut was, so I tried washing it off but that made her scream. I grabbed a bath towel and wrapped it around the tip of her finger and told her to hold it tight while I figured out what to do next. I walked over to my sewing table and saw the part of her finger that she cut off. What came next was a 911 call, a visit from the EMS team, and instructions to continue to apply pressure on our way to the ER.

From there the doctor took over.

From the time of the cut until the time we were home from the ER took three-and-a-half hours. While there was a very real sense of concern and urgency to my actions, I don’t remember freaking out. When you are the only adult around, you quickly realize you have to act like one. Freaking out would have served nobody.

Two days later I was picking my daughter up from school. One of the teachers came up to me and with big eyes asked, “What did you do? Did you just react?” I replied, “Well, I didn’t react so much as I responded.”

There’s a difference, you know. A reaction usually knee-jerks while a response lends itself to more reasonable behavior. In an emergency situation, a response usually makes for a better overall decision than a reaction does.

So why, then, is it so hard for me to respond in a non-emergency situation? In a heated discussion with my husband, I react; when one of my kids says something to me she shouldn’t, I react; when I don’t get my way with the world, I react. And it serves nobody.

My grown-up shoes come in handy in an emergency. I’m able to step outside of what this is doing to ME and take care of the situation. But in sin-induced instances I seem to lose that calm, rational ability. And I fight back.

Oh, for the gift of response when it is most needed. Oh, to be able to diffuse the sin in others because I don’t stir up my own. Oh, to live, love, and respond the way Jesus did in all situations. That’s the way I want to live.