At the risk of using an sometimes over-used phrase, I share this story that was sort of an epiphany for me about God's love and forgiveness.
Chase has a lot of coins in his dinosaur bank and his dad got him a bunch of paper coin wraps from the bank so they could wrap up the coins and take them to the bank. His dad put them in a plastic bag and put them up and told Chase not to play with them. Well, Chase is so tall that he can get to almost everything so he got them down and started throwing them all over the floor.
What a mess! We were scheduled to go to a puppet show at the library and I was so angry that I just wanted to yell at Chase and tell him that we were not going to the show anymore. God has really been working with me to help me to slow down, catch my breath and consult him when the kids have disobeyed or done something wrong so that I can make better parenting choices.
This was really hard as I looked at these papers absolutely everywhere in the family room! So I left the family room and went away to think and pray for a moment. This was no big, long ordeal, maybe 2 minutes at the most and I then told Chase that he was going to have to clean up the papers before I was ready to go or I would go without him. He was not yet dressed for the day but I still had myself and Alyssa to get dressed. Realizing what a big mess he had made, he started crying and asked if he could at least get dressed first, before he started the big job. I said no, more angrily than I would have liked to, and then I left him downstairs to clean up the mess.
When I went to check on him, he was still sniffling but he was mostly finished cleaning up. "I'm really sorry mommy" Chase said and I said that I was glad that he was apologizing. I explained that Daddy knew how hard it would be for such a little boy to clean up such a big mess and that was why Daddy had instructed him not to dump them out.
Even before the words were out of my mouth, I knew how familiar those words of loving admonishment, of trying to save someone from themselves, of being able to see a truth and a consequence that is not seen to the person choosing to disobey were to me. These were the conversations that I had been having with God in my prayer time about my own disobedience!
I know that discussing obedience of any sort for any one over the age of 18 has become a dirty word of sorts. However, I am convinced that refusing to follow the Inner Spirit that God has deposited in each of us is an act of disobedience that carries consequences. It is not necessarily that God does bad things to me to punish me but my actions have certain unpleasant consequences that I did not intend. He knew those consequences and I did not yet I heeded only my own understanding.
Despite my mistakes, misunderstandings and moments of foolishness, God has stood by me and continues to do so. In an instant, I understood how much God really loves me and how much he wants me to approach discipline with my child as He, my Heavenly Father does.
As Chase continues to slowly pick up the brown wrappers, I get down on the floor and begin to help him. His eyes light up with surprise. "You are going to help me Mommy, even though I was disobedient?" Yes my son, I thought, with tears in my eyes at the enormity of the analogy between his life and mine. "Even when are you disobedient, I will NEVER abandon you." I realized then that whatever my own childhood was or was not, I have the best parenting role model ever.
As I tell parents that I work with, for each method of discipline that you use on your child, at the moment of discipline, if Jesus was at your elbow, looking over your shoulder, would he approve? Today, I had my own moment of asking "What Would Jesus Do?" and I learned more than I ever thought I could from a little boy and his mess.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).
Help me to always discipline my child in love. Help me to remember that the root of the word discipline is "to teach" so that I treat each incident of discipline as a teaching moment. Most of all, remind me that the compassion and forgiveness that Christ tells me to extend to all does not stop at my children. Thank you, Lord, for standing by me to guide me in my parenting journey.