"The true test of walking in the Spirit will not be the way we act, but the way we react to the frustrations of life." ~Beverly LaHaye
While we were visiting our sweet nephew in the NICU a few nights ago, we encountered a misunderstanding. It wasn't anything major, but it was a good reminder that authenticity is a 24/7 commitment. My sister had made arrangements with Trent's nurse beforehand for me to be able to bring my kiddos back to the NICU family area. This area is located behind the entry doors of the unit and is reserved for immediate family of the NICU babies, meaning only siblings of the babies are allowed to be there. I was really grateful that my kids would be able to go back to the family area; what a huge relief to have them closer to me while I was visiting! Since they aren't siblings, they can't actually be in a NICU patient room. That makes visiting much harder if I'm at the hospital alone because someone has to leave Trent and watch Thing 1 and Thing 2 in order for me to see him. Having them in the family area, if nothing else, would avoid the inconvenient (admittedly necessary, but still inconvenient) process of back and forth buzzing the intercom to be admitted and readmitted to the unit every 15 minutes. This would allow my mom or sister to be watching my kids just a few doors down without the bothersome buzzing in and out. It was much better than signing in, signing out, scrubbing in and scrubbing again each time I needed to check on them.
When I arrived, I signed in and mentioned that we had made arrangements for the kids to be in the family area. The receptionist told me very quickly that the area was only for immediate family. I mentioned that we were aware of the rules, but restated that my sister had received permission from the nurse, and that they wouldn't be seeing the baby, just hanging out -with supervision- in the family room. It didn't matter; she had no intention of "bending" that rule. I tried to remain fairly polite when my mom came out to take the kids back. I explained that there must have been a misunderstanding and that it looked like they couldn't be back there after all. I was irritated, but I didn't let it show. It's okay to be irritated. In fact, it's even okay to be angry, but anger (or irritation) isn't a free pass to behave however we want even when it's completely justified. We are told in both Psalms and Ephesians to not sin when angry.
Where does authenticity come in? Well, we left the NICU and went with my mom and sister to grab a bite to eat. We were gone for a while and a different receptionist was at the desk when we returned. Rather than try our luck with the new receptionist and head back to the family area, my mom sat in the main NICU waiting area with the kids while I went to see Trent with Erin. When I left to check on Mom and the kids, the original receptionist was back. I'm so glad we weren't tempted to try it again because even being "difficult" in your daily interactions can damage your testimony.
When it was time to leave, the original receptionist called Matthew back to her and said something that went like this, "Hey, little man, I just wanted you to know that you blessed my heart here tonight. I overheard you telling your Nana that you were going to go forward in church Sunday morning and tell the world that you asked Jesus in your heart."
I didn't hear much after that. I was processing the weight of it all. I took away two things from that. The first one was that Matthew had just heard some awesome encouragement from an unexpected place and been an unplanned blessing that night in that waiting room. The second was how grateful I was that I didn't give in to any temptation to put up a fight when she told us we couldn't use the family area. It sounds insignificant, I know, but I'm almost positive that her reaction to Matthew's conversation with Nana would've been different if I had behaved negatively in our first encounter with her. If I had received her "no" with a different attitude, it really would've destroyed the testimony Matthew gave just by having an innocent conversation that she overheard.
Ephesians 4:2 says "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." There's no clause in that verse that says to be humble and gentle when it's convenient, easy, or only when you think the situation calls for it. We are called to be this way all day, every day. We are called to this in the big moments when everyone seems to be watching and in the little moments when we think no one will be affected by our behavior. As parents, James and I look for teaching moments in hopes of deepening Matthew's (and one day Lucy's) understanding of God's Word and how it applies to us in everyday life. Teaching moments are for us as God's children too. I had my very own teaching moment that night. It was a very real reminder that being authentic isn't a part-time commitment. If we treat it that way for a moment, we can be labelled as "just another fake" in a heartbeat. Be committed to authenticity. The world is watching you at all times.