The bedroom door banged shut, making the house quiver. One of my sons had very obviously lied about something and refused to admit it. The house was at a standstill. There was anger and frustration on both sides of the argument, and it was all over a handful of filched kiddie vitamins. Vitamins!
What’s a gospel-centered mama to do? Ignore the incident, considering that the stolen items were so insignificant? Or perhaps crack down hard on the lying and deceitful tongue?
In this case, the answer was neither. I prayed for wisdom, then picked up my Bible.
Creaking open his door, I would never have guessed that tempers were so high in here just moments before. I sat down on his bed and he looked up from his reading.
“Son,” I said, flipping through the pages to Deuteronomy 5:6-21. “I’d like you to read these verses to me.”
His sweet young voice, still high-pitched, lilted through the 10 Commandments.
“You shall not steal … you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour … you shall not covet.”
It was at this moment that I had a choice. Would I smash the Bible over his head (figuratively speaking), accusing him of breaking nearly half the commandments? Or would I somehow, through Christ’s power, bring him gently to a place of repentance?
God was gracious that night and helped me to lead the discussion in a way that didn’t smash the Bible verses over his head.
“What do we learn about God from these verses? What is important to Him?” These questions led us to a conversation about living honestly, and how the opposite of honesty is not lying, but being dishonest. Sneaking vitamins was the primary dishonesty, and lying was the logical next step in the pattern.
The conversation was short, and I doubted his heart was repentant. He understood the dishonesty, but didn’t feel bad about how he had behaved.
So we prayed. It was a simple prayer, and at the end I simply asked him to quiet his heart and ask God if there was something He wanted to say. A few moments later, he said God had said nothing. I knew what God was saying to my son at that moment, so I spoke the words out loud. “God wants you to know that he loves you always, and forgives you.”
Questioning eyes looked at me. “But Mommy, I thought God wouldn’t forgive you unless you asked Him?”
“Would you like to ask Him?”
“Yes.” He closed his eyes again, and whispered the words of a repentant heart. A smile cracked open his face, his two outsized adult teeth peeking out. “Mommy, he said Yes!”
May I just say that I do not always treat my child’s sin in such a gracious manner? That evening I felt the Holy Spirit moving through me, giving me grace and wisdom to guide my child to understanding and repentance. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience that in my daily parenting!
I believe there two essential reminders God gave me that night. These two concepts can be applied to any time our kids make bad decisions, from sneaking out of the house, to cheating on a test to gossiping about a friend.
1) The importance of prayer.
Had I not prayed before walking into his room, the conversation would have gone very differently. And had I not prayed with him later, he probably would have simply chalked it up to another lecture from mom. It was only through inviting and allowing God to work in us that our conversation carried any eternal value.
2) The importance of balancing truth with love.
Truth would have just pointed out those verses and said “look, you broke those commandments. ‘Fess up an apologize.” Love demanded that I take a gentler route.
But love on its own would have simply given him a hug and moved on. Truth demanded that I do more, because “the point of our salvation and even our sanctification isn’t to bring us happiness, possessions, or healing. It’s to heal our souls, make us right with God, and to demonstrate to the world such a great love that would stoop down to our level and give us a ways to look up.” (Gospel Centered Mom)
The point of our parenting is not to raise happy, well-adjusted children. The point of our parenting is to draw our children toward the God who wants to love and forgive them but also calls them to take up their cross and follow Him.
My job is to “teach them, train them, and pray for them to embrace relationship with Jesus Christ. It is my job to allow Him to change them from the inside out.” (Gospel Centered Mom)
If this is an idea that resonates with you, you totally need to read Brooke’s new book, Gospel Centered Mom. You can also download a copy of my Christian Parent Manifesto from my website, which is a short manifesto for parents who want the gospel, not the world, to define their parenting.