“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” Ephesians 3:17-18 (NIV)
On the way home from school last fall with our Kindergartener, he casually mentioned how three kids in his class used bad words. He informed me that two used the “s” word (stupid, of course) and the last one used God’s name in vain. We reinforced how that’s not the words we use in our house and it was sad his friends were using those words. There was no condemnation toward his friends, just reinforcement we choose a different path.
Fast forward a few hours and our middle child came to inform me that her younger brother just used God’s name in vain himself. My first response was concern, then a little anger. Anger at the situation and “growing trend” with our youngest, not anger at our child. We choose not to talk that way in our house and we have taught our children how much that hurts God’s heart when His name is used the wrong way. The part that bothered me the most was this isn’t the first time our youngest has used that phrase. So I turned to my husband and very emphatically insisted, “It’s time you had a conversation with him. He obviously isn’t getting the message from me.”
I heard our littlest in the other room crying…not because he was sorry for what he did, but because he knew he messed up and was going to get in trouble. I have to admit, I had little sympathy for him at that point. This is a lesson we’ve discussed multiple times and I was feeling like the “bad mom” for not being able to solve it quickly.
I called him over to me with every intention of having his dad, who was sitting next to me, address the issue since dad’s words carry more weight. However, before I knew it, words were coming out of my mouth that I didn’t intend to say. The conversation went something like this:
“Do you know why we don’t say God’s name like that?”
Our littlest nodding his head, still crying.
“It hurts God’s heart when we talk about Him like that. Did you make a mistake? Was it an accident?”
Again, nodding his head, crying a little less this time.
“You know, as God’s child, He knows that you’re going to make mistakes and He’s not mad at you. He just wants you to say you’re sorry and try not to make the mistake again.”
Less crying and looking at me now.
“Are you God’s child? Did you ask Jesus into your heart?”
“Okay then, as God’s child, if you ask Him for forgiveness, tell Him you’re sorry, He will forgive you and it will be as if you didn’t say it. But you have to ask. He’s not mad. He just wants to hear you say you’re sorry and that you will try to do better next time.”
Silence as he thought about what I said.
“Do you want to ask Jesus to forgive you?”
“You do it.”
“I can’t do it for you. You have to do the asking because you are the one who made the mistake.”
He hopped off my lap, went into the other room and had a conversation with his Father by himself. He then came back and the crying was over.
All the while this conversation that I never intended to have was taking place, my husband was looking at me with a question in his eyes. I think he was wondering why I had taken over when I had, only two minutes earlier, told him he needed to handle it because my approach wasn’t effective.
And you know what? My approach wouldn’t have been effective. When I say those weren’t the words I intended to say, I meant it. I was going to talk firmly, with probably a raised voice to make sure he understood how serious I was taking his mistake and since this wasn’t the first offence, I was thinking of punishment/consequences/privileges lost (although I had no idea what they would be).
Instead, God allowed the Holy Spirit to step in and teach me the interaction He wanted me to have with our kids. I’m so glad I obeyed and let the Holy Spirit take over. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t me very present in the interaction. It just means that the words I thought needed to be said were overridden by words that were whispered on my heart to be shared.
As I reflected this morning about the conversation, I started thinking about my role as a parent. Yes, I was given authority by God to “raise children from infancy into (hopefully) responsible adults.” But you know what? I was given authority to nurture, love, guide, and protect, not rule with an iron first. Do I want my kids fearing their Heavenly Father (or me) or do I want them learning that God welcomes us with open arms when we make a mistake and ask forgiveness? We all need a healthy fear of those in authority, but that truth should be clothed in love. The truth is God loves us. Sometimes love is shown through trials and difficulties but because we’re His children, all our sins, deliberate or accidental, are covered with Jesus’ blood. As a result, we can approach God even or especially when we’ve sinned as one who is loved, not condemned. That is the lesson I think God wanted me to remind my son of. Maybe He realized I needed that reminder myself.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014