At some point every day, I can count on hearing, “Mom! Look what she’s doing!”
Now that Hosanna is mobile, there are almost constant opportunities for friction between her and three-and-a-half-year-old Isaiah. As soon as she crawls toward something, he wants it. And if he’s building a tower out of Duplos, all she wants to do is knock it down and try to eat it.
Isaiah often begs me to keep her from touching his toys. It’s tempting to get frustrated and want him to just share, but then I realize how I can get in the same mindset, wanting my kids to stop dropping food on my floor, taking dishes out of my cupboards, or squishing play-doh into my carpet.
Recently, Isaiah was trying to convince me that other people disobey, but he doesn’t disobey. He is more than happy to let me know when Hosanna is doing something I have forbidden him to do, like throwing food on the floor or chewing on a library book.
If my ultimate goal becomes outward obedience, my son may continue his Pharisaical thinking, that if he follows Mom and Dad’s rules closely enough, he will be a good boy. He would fit right in with children whose parents follow other religions and have excellent behavior management apart from Christ (as long as his sister didn’t bother him too much). Maybe I’d become so convinced by his uprightness that I’d recoil in horror when I caught him hitting his sister or speaking unkind words to a friend.
Maybe he doesn’t need to be told he’s a good boy as much as he needs to be taught the gospel.
All About Jesus
In a recent panel discussion on Teaching Our Children About Jesus, Elyse Fitzpatrick, author of Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, shared that Jesus had little brothers and sisters and treated them perfectly. Jesus knows that my son struggles to share with his sister, and that I struggle to share my time, energy, and picked-up home.
My son is not called to love his sister most of the time, he is called to love her all of the time, just as I am called to love them and my husband in a thousand opportunities for self-sacrifice each day.
When unconditional love is the standard, it’s not something that can be faked.
When I name sins for what they are, I can point my children to the One who never sinned, and the forgiveness He freely offers. I can tell my son, “That wasn’t kind when you pushed your sister out of the way. Jesus probably didn’t like it when His sister got in His way, but He never pushed her. Even though He was never unkind, He died to pay for all the unkind things we have ever done.”
I can also confess when I sin against him. “I’m sorry for yelling at you to come brush your teeth, rather than simply asking you and disciplining you when you didn’t obey.” or “I’m sorry I acted angry when you spilled your rice on the carpet. Will you forgive me?”
A couple weeks ago, I saw my son rip a toy out of his sister’s hand. When I asked him to apologize to her for taking it, he said he didn’t want to. I felt led to put my hands on his shoulders and pray for Jesus to give him a soft heart that would want to apologize to his sister, thanking Jesus for loving his brothers and sisters perfectly.
Another time, we did work on what it sounded like to apologize using a kind voice, saying specifically what he did that was wrong and trying to look his perpetually-active sister in the eyes. After a couple silly-voice attempts, I thought he had done an okay job and asked if he wanted to go outside. He said, “Yes, but first I need to do something.” He turned to his sister. “Hosanna, I’m sorry for pushing you over.” Then he smiled up at me, “Okay, I’m ready to go.”
Though I don’t have school-age children, Elyse gave some great principles about what it looks like to place the conviction with the child when they sin against someone, rather than forcing them to mimic apologetic words they don’t mean.
Nurturing And Evangelism
God has placed a desire in our hearts as women to nurture. We don’t want to see our children skin their knees. We wish we could take their sickness away. We enjoy fulfilling desires for cups of milk or another helping of the supper we cooked. But do we really believe that Jesus loves them more? Do we tell them? Will we ask God to use whatever is necessary to draw them to repentance, or would we rather make sure they always feel good about themselves?
If you are the mother of little ones, you are guaranteed an opportunity for evangelism. Day in and day out, you love and serve hearts that are not surrendered to Christ, souls that do not have the indwelling Spirit guiding them in love, patience, kindness or self-control. If you’ve surrendered your life to Christ, you reflect Him as a priest, interceding daily on behalf of the souls in the next bedroom, and practicing life-on-life discipleship.
If you’re feeling discouraged about your children’s heart behavior, look to Jesus. He has the power to turn stone hearts into flesh. To replace selfishness with His Spirit’s love.
Jen Wilkin, in her newest book, None Like Him, said that “Jesus demonstrated power over the physical realm to point us to his power over the spiritual realm. Every visible miracle Jesus performed during his earthly ministry was a whisper. . . pointing to the most dumbfounding miracle of all: the display of his power to transform the human heart from stone to flesh.” (134)
Loving Father, thank you for loving our children more than we ever could. Would you show us how to point them to you, even as we look to you for the strength to do it? We surrender our children to you again today.