I missed posting again last week because it was a crazy few days. I started my job, there was a major fire on our street and I volunteered at my sons’ school almost the entire day and night on Friday for a delightful graduation banquet. Then the weekend was full of its standard 8 games — although one was rained out and just in time for us to watch the Preakness. It was a whirlwind and Monday arrived in a hurry.
In this new life of mine with a very enjoyable job in a beautiful office building with lots of lovely people, Mondays will be a little different. I will be taking my boys to school, but won’t be coming home to rectify the domestic destruction wrought by the weekend. Instead I’ll be dropping them and going straight to work. Even without my own need to be somewhere, I’ve never managed to consistently make getting out the door smooth and peaceful. But l keep trying, and I’m not above the occasional bribe either. It’s actually pretty effective. Everyone in the car by 8:40? Yes, we can go to Chipotle after school.
This first new-life Monday seemed to be off to an impressive start, but after I put my work bag in the car, I went back in the house to get my phone. When I came out again Sam was downright attacking Nate. Upon investigation, I learned that the inciting event was Nate’s song choice. He’s a Taylor Swift fan, and Sam evidently is not.
It was not my plan to lecture the boys on the way to school about “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Nor did I want to tell Sam that he would be disciplined after school (because honestly I am so much better at grace than consequences, but I especially abhor the delayed consequence). Of course parenting often requires doing what we’d rather not do.
A friend brought the boys home, and I arrived a few minutes later. Not surprisingly Sam was already out back shooting hoops.
When I called him in to talk about what happened that morning, he was immediately emotional.
“Why would you do that to your brother?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he sniffed.
I went on to explain how unacceptable his behavior was, how disappointed I was, how that should never happen again. Somehow in the midst of it, I asked something again about why.
“I don’t know,” Sam repeated. “I don’t have a better answer than that!”
I tried rolling my lips inward to hide my smirk, but without success. The candid wisdom of that child! Of course he doesn’t have a better answer than that. We never do. Harping on “why” can really obscure the point. We are human. We are sinners. We do what we know we should not do (Romans 7:14-20). In fact, I knew I should not be asking him why repeatedly, yet somehow I was.
Sticks and carrots can be somewhat effective in modifying behavior, but Sam’s is a heart issue. I think we really miss the big picture if we fail to engage a child’s heart. Overcoming sin is not the result of good training or “wise choices” or proper rewards or anything else touted as modern wisdom. Overcoming sin is about knowing and becoming like Jesus, pure and simple. Jesus came to earth to show us how to live. If we know Him deeply, we’ll start acting more and more like Him.
So my prayer today is that Sam will know and love Jesus, that his motivation in life will not be to please us as parents, but to live for Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you ever mess up and find yourself befuddled at how you could have done something like that, reasoning like Sam “I don’t know — I don’t have a better answer than that!” I think if we are honest, we all do. But the fact that we cannot fully eradicate the mark of sin in our lives should leave us more grateful than discouraged. Jesus doesn’t love us one iota less, no matter what we’ve done. His love cannot be earned and it cannot be lost. Praise God.
A pastor at my church recently said, “You cannot forgive a deserving person. Forgiveness means they don’t deserve it.”
I forgave Sam. Nate forgave Sam. He didn’t deserve it.
May we realize we are forgiven every single day, and may we not let pride convince us that we deserve it. Because we don’t.
I know, and I hope you know, the truth of John 1:16 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Have a fabulous weekend!