Yesterday at breakfast, my oldest son had the sniffles. Prone to drama, and with the energy and vigor expected of a sinewy seven-year-old boy, he doubled over and raised up with every sniff. Repeatedly, he threw back his head and collapsed on the table with a force that could incapacitate a grandparent. In short, he was fine.
But he sighed and groaned and slouched and barely picked at his breakfast, and his ten-year-old sister Livi said, “Mom, Jonah needs to go to the doctor.”
My wife replied, “Oh, I know he’s feeling lousy. You’re sweet to look out for him, but I think he’ll be fine. He’s just waking up.”
Jonah gained courage by his sister’s concern. The sniffles became powerful inward blasts, punctuated by more pitiful prostration.
And after another moment, the ten-year-old said again, this time with strength, “MOM, Jonah NEEDS to go to the DOCTOR.”
Amy and I looked at Livi, and then at each other. Of course, Jonah did not need a doctor. The ten-year-old, having realized that she is old enough to understand some things, had forgotten that she is still a child.
I gape and shake my head in wonder at her presumption, because I forget that is exactly how I am with God. I would do much better to recognize the kinship I have with my children in this matter. It would help make me a more patient parent and a more willing child of God.
It is so easy for someone with the advantage of age to see the silly mistakes of the young, and that truth makes me shudder at the fierce clarity with which God must see my life of misadventures. How much more ridiculous must I seem to God, having deceived myself, so much more than a ten-year-old, with my shallow wisdom and understanding.
But that brings the teeth to the tail, because even at my most foolish and peacocky, God loves me perfectly. He has come to me and has made his home in me. He puts his feet up and gets comfortable and waits for me to listen, like a father waits for his child.
Ah, thanks for this. Such a good reminder and I love your illustration! I’ve been receiving a daily Lenten devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society and the last couple of days a thread running through those devotionals is that God waits for us with mercy and compassion because of his great love for us. I must really need to let that sink to a deeper level in my heart and mind since I’m being reminded of it multiple times in one day!
My goodness, I love your insights, RG.
Men who marry women named “Amy” are brilliant. Just saying.
Anybody else have any examples of ways their kids (or any other relationship, really) unwittingly expose your failings? It seems like God uses those kiddos like a smelting furnace for my soul almost daily.
Am I the only one who had images of Jonah as Mundo Cani while reading this?
My son is now in his thirties, but while he lived at home with the added pressure of homeschooling, we often butt heads and he regularly tried my patience (I admit, I tried his, too). Around the time he was sixteen or so the Lord hit me with the realization that not only was I being used in my child’s life, but God was using my son in mine. Yikes! It was a turning point for me in our relationship and I am definitely more patient now than I was then. Parenting is fertile soil for God to do His sanctifying work. I am grateful.
Goodgame, are you kidding me? My kids are both in middle school. Their goal in life is to expose my failings (unwittingly or wittingly, it matters not).
Of course, my failings in their eyes can be as innocous as nodding my head to the beat of music in the presence of their friends. Or- heaven forbid- singing alto.
But the failure (let’s be frank and name it: sin) that is regularly being exposed in the theater of my life is the simmering anger that I cling to after the smoke has cleared.
It disguises itself as righteous anger. In fact, it probably started out in the righteous category. But when my need for rightness overrides my ability to extend grace, it doesn’t take long for that white cowboy hat to be replaced by a black one.
When my kids are repentant and apologies are extended, it is easier for me to throw a bandana over my face and go through the motions of forgiveness and restoration than to actually lay down the anger. After all, I have been wronged! Repeatedly! No, habitually!
How does God DO that? Well, justice was served. At the expense of His Son. Who also bore the weight of my children’s wrongs. What is left to be mad about? What is left, but grace?
Randall, you need to compile all your parenting insights and write a book. Much of what you write seems to center around things your children teach you about your own relationship with God. Perhaps that could be a theme.
A few years ago I read a decent parenting book that highlighted that it’s okay to tell your kids “because I said so” since nearly all of your rules boil down to that anyway.
Then a few weeks ago, I was struck with the concept of my son breaking a house rule & being sent to timeout. Instead I say, “you broke the rule, but I’m going to serve the punishment” and sit in timeout. The breaking of the rule demands punishment.
The creator of the law (all law, from “do not murder” to f=ma) served the punishment for my transgressions; my sin. And it wasn’t just sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair in the corner. It was death on the cross.
I need to remember something was done for me. I am sorrowful at who I was, the mess I am without Christ, the price that was paid, and that it had to be done. At the same time (paradox) I rejoice that I am new and clothed in righteousness.
I plan on doing this someday when the little ears are ready for this lesson.
My kids taught me that french fries are a vegetable.
I live with 6 teenage girls, along with my own daughters (3 and 5 months) and I can’t begin to tell you how much I learn about myself and my relationship with God through them and their “shows”.
It drives me nuts sometimes how they don’t see their error- then The Spirit comes and says- Why don’t you take a look in the mirror.
Then I too (sometimes), go running to my Father feeling my childlikeness and need for his unfailing love and mercy.
Thanks for you thoughts! Keep running to His arms.
Tony from Pandora
Disclaimer: My wife’s name is also Amy…
A month ago, our oldest daugther, Emily, age 6, was behaving very badly. My wife got angry and in her own words, “was MEAN in my discipline of her.” So my wife sat in the living room in tears over her actions, while Emily was sent to her room. Our other daughter, Abby, age 4, came into the living room and asked, “Why are you crying, mommy?” Amy looked down and just explained that Emily wasn’t being good and mommy is very upset about it. Then Abby looks up with her big blue eyes and asks, “Well… why don’t we just sit and pray about it?”
My wife cried even more at that, then prayed about it, and the rest of the day was great…
I laughed when I read this, because I could hear my 5 1/2-year-old in your 10-year-old. Already she will point out “the truth” that she sees in the behavior of her younger brother and sister, and we have to continually say, “That is not your job to point that out. Your dad and I are the parents. WE make the judgment.”
But over and over again I hear my words and want to hang my head in shame, because so many times while what I say to my kids is true, I forget that it is also true of who I am in relation to my Heavenly Father. I want to pass judgment and mete out the rules and fix the problems I see, and it’s not my job! My job is to trust Him and obey Him, and when I do life goes SO much better!
I’m a little late to the party, but this post made me smile and nod in agreement. My husband and I were just talking about the fact that there are times we see recurring issues in our children and say to ourselves (and each other), “We really need to work on X with that child.” Usually, very little time elapses between saying this and seeing the very same sin rear its ugly head in myself. And usually, if I go to the Father with MY sin first, whatever is happening with said child improves. Thanks for the story.
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