There I was…on the bathroom floor…desperate for my son’s heart to change.
We had just had 20 minutes that made me want to clench my fists and jump up and down and throw an honest-to-goodness 2 year old tantrum. I have been praying more than ever lately for my children to have wisdom (more on that one day soon), because the amount of foolishness that has been prevalent in our home by my dear 3 year old has been…what can I say…MIND-BOGGLING.
Tonight, after pulling one of his routine foolish antics, I knelt down in front of him as he attempted to put his poops in the potty. Picture it: me, kneeling on our, ahem, “well-loved,” bathroom floor while my strained-face pooping 3 year old looked at me with red eyes. “Buddy…” I pleaded, tears in my own eyes. “Buddy…why, oh WHY, are you being so foolish?”
We’ve just been over this particular scenario 41 billion trillion quadrillion times, and sometimes–I will be honest–I resort to this…kneeling on a bathroom floor and pleading with my pooping child. I’m still not sure if that’s better or worse than throwing a tantrum. I’ve been in Proverbs a lot lately, and you just can’t read Proverbs without begging God to save you and your children from the folly of foolishness. You can’t read Proverbs without begging God to soften your heart and your children’s hearts to love wisdom and not despise it. You can’t read Proverbs without begging God to keep you and your children from returning to your/their own vomit. Isn’t it true?
We had just come from our church’s little community group, where at some point we ended up discussing how when children are asked why their parents love them, they usually respond with works-based answers, such as, “Because I’m good at art” or “Because I obey” or things of the sort. This, of course, is so opposed to the heart of the gospel, which relieves us from the burden of works-based righteousness. We are made righteous because of who Jesus is, and nothing of ourselves. I had Ephesians 2:8 (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from ourselves–it is a gift from God”) memorized as a child, but I did not truly understand the essence of this verse and the gospel until I was an adult. And it is still a battle each day to remember and understand and believe.
Oh, how I long for my kids to know God’s love for them.
Oh, oh, oh…oh, I long for my kids to understand that God’s love is unconditional. That we love because He first loved us. That we cannot attain His favor or love by our works, but only because of Jesus.
I wrestle with this truth and understanding in my own life, but I fight hard each day to understand it because a.) my soul needs to understand it and b.) I can’t teach them what I don’t understand.
Daily, by faith, one of the ways I try to teach them the little I do understand of His love is by showing them and telling them constantly how much I love them. Simply because they are mine. Simply because they are made in God’s image. Simply because they are eternal beings that matter. To me, and to God. Oh, how I long for my kids to understand love.
So…back to community group (or “moony toop” as Selah calls it). As soon as I heard that question being discussed, I made a mental note to talk to the kids about works-based righteousness. Though we talk about the gospel frequently, I wanted to start directly teaching them about unconditional love. Just then, Brian leaned over and whispered, “We’ve got to ask our kids that question when we get home.” We were thinking the same thing. We had never thought to ask them such a question and we really had no idea how they would answer.
Which brings us…home. Remember where we started? Me, kneeling on the bathroom floor?
I put Selah to bed with such an anxiety in my spirit over the state of my son’s foolish heart. I was talking to Selah, telling her the gospel once again and reminding her why we can forgive our friend who had hurt her that night–only because of Jesus. Only because Jesus forgave us first. Only because Jesus forgave us while we were still sinners. And all in the back of my head I’m begging the Lord to change my son’s heart to be one who loves wisdom and not folly.
I shut Selah’s door, and wanted to cry. But then I heard Brian’s voice…
“Mommy…? Will you come here for a minute? Elliott has something to tell you…”
I braced myself for the somewhat typical half-hearted apology from Elliott, and begged the Lord to give me the grace to truly forgive him and truly have hope for his soul. But instead…I got this:
“My son, tell Mommy why Daddy and Mommy love you.”
Elliott responded with a big smile on his face, “Because Jesus said, ‘Love one another.’ John 15:12.”
I was a little confused…I figured Brian must have done a little lesson on the question we had wanted to ask him, in light of his disobedience. I thought it was sort of an odd way to teach Elliott the “answer” to that question, but I was just trying to go with it…until Brian relayed the whole story to me, with our sweet Elliott in his arms.
“I asked Elliott why Mommy and Daddy love him, and he told me, ‘Because God tells us to.’ I asked if he could think of anything else…any other reasons why we love him. And he responded by saying, ‘Jesus said, ‘Love one another.’ John 15:12′.”
Mind boggled to mind BLOWN.
I broke down into a puddle of tears. I think Elliott’s starting to recognize my “good crying” (ha!) because he just beamed ear-to-ear with pride as my lip quivered and the tears flowed down my face.
Our 3 year old son responded to the question of why we love him with a Scripture. With a Scripture about the fact that our love comes from God. And, for full disclosure here: I haven’t taught him that Scripture. It was a verse he memorized at preschool.
And so without my help, or instruction, the Holy Spirit has been working in his heart on this concept…that love comes from God. That we love because God tells us to. (Remember my revelation that God doesn’t tell us our parenting techniques will not come back void, but that THE WORD will not come back void? What a sweet and gentle reminder from the Lord on a night that my faith had dwindled…)
Oh, there is still, obviously, so much to learn and so much to teach. But the fact that our son has grasped the idea that we love him because of God is the nugget of grace and hope I needed tonight.
Fellow mamas, let’s teach the Word diligently and faithfully in our homes, pray like crazy as we do, and trust that God will plant the truths in our children’s souls.
Lord, I’m praying for my friends tonight, and I’m praying especially for all the mommies out there who, like me, struggle to understand that your love is unconditional. Teach us, Lord. Show us, Lord. Help us understand the gospel and give us the grace and perseverance to teach our children the gospel. Lord, help us understand your love so that we can love our kids unconditionally. Lord, strengthen our weary souls, as we love and pour out and teach and train tirelessly and endlessly…and teach us how to do it in your strength. Teach us how to pray. Amen.