Recently, the day Easter Sunday, my oldest son had made a mess like a typical 7 year old constantly does. I wasn’t present at the time, neither was his mom. He’s a smart kid and sweet at heart, but lately he’s been battling in which spirit he wants to be guided; in comes opportunity. Often these situations quickly jump to frustration and even anger for us parents because it seems just 5 minutes prior to each situation was when the last set of clear instructions of respect, responsibility and common sense were spelled out. This particular time mom had sort of reached a limit and also somewhat a point of disbelief at his actions so she gently outlined the situation to me, in front of the now DEEPLY remorseful accused child.
So the situation was in large a simple one, except for the actions he chose after the accident occurred. My son had simply made a mistake which allowed the white carpet to be stained by a colorful liquid chalk solution. Not that big of a deal although just another annoying mess that continues to stack up. If the boy had simply said “uh oh” and gotten our attention it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal even if a little frustration was present. So the “crime” had hand was my son’s decision to take a paperback book (something like a crossword puzzle or something) and simply lay it in the floor over the stain as if to hide it. Now if the stain had been off to the side or under the furniture where it couldn’t be seen it would be one thing that maybe he could have gotten away with for a while, but it was simply in the middle of the room; where it would obviously be promptly discovered. Of course nothing like this was said, but I was thinking to myself that even at 7, this was a dumb move.. where’s the common sense. I remember Dr. James Dobson outlined two types of offenses deserving of punishment. One being simply childish irresponsibility, things like mistakes (known or unknown) due to attention span or excitement that is difficult for a child to always prevent or know. The second and more severe problem being defiance or when the child knows it’s wrong, knows the repercussions but does it anyway. This situation would fall more on the defiance side of things.
So as my wife is deferring the discipline situation to me I said there at a loss for what to say or what punishment might have any useful impact to him. My son was fearful. Thankfully my amusement of the situation and unsuccessful attempt of holding back laughter prevented frustration from growing and also I noticed it calmed my son a little who knew full well his fault and the punishment he had earned and deserved. I bowed my head (not in prayer) to hide my smile and I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me that this was an opportunity to teach this 7 year old mind perfectly the meaning of Easter. In that nudge I received peace from my responsibility to punish and joy at my opportunity to deliver it, not a emotion that typically accompanies punishment. Taking our punishment wasn’t enjoyable in the least, but when Christ arose, ascended to the father, obtained judgement and freedom for all of us and was able to come back to the disciples and for the first time deliver peace…. that had to be such a joy for Him. And God the Father had to feel such peach because now he didn’t have to hand down punishment to the millions of children because his Son had already suffered it. A chalk stain is mostly simple to clean up due to it’s water base. It may take the carpet cleaner but it’s not juice or blood. Christ however purposefully made the blood stain to serve as a reminder of how simple it is to remove the sin. God’s covering of our sin isn’t a crossword puzzle but an irremovable blood stain on history. Salvation is the Holy Spirit’s baptism of us in the Blood of Christ to wash and cover our eternal door post in blood. The punishment of death can’t reach us under the blood as that sin is truly hidden in the truth.
I called over my son and while I wanted to hug him immediately I had to command the authority for a moment more so I told him to sit with me and look at me. I asked him what yesterday was and what it meant. He stated that it was Easter and with some help that it was when Jesus arose from the dead. I further asked what understanding he had of all those words and their meanings. I explained the story of Christ, the murder of Jesus, and the resurrection. I explained that He is alive and one day will return again. I outlined that we had all sinned and were all deserving of punishment and eventual/eternal death, but God sent his son knowing that he would suffer to take away our pain and sins and die for us so we didn’t have to endure the punishment. At this point my previous attempts to hold back smiles were turned to attempts to hold back tears. At the same moments I’m seeing light bulbs go off in my sons mind, the same and larger light bulbs are going off in my own mind because we’re both being taught lessons. God was showing me more about what it truly means to be a father and to be the spiritual leader of my home/family, something I never felt qualified to do or worthy to become. God was reminding me more in that moment than in an Easter service the forgiveness that I had been allowed to receive and that everything I was saying to my son was simultaneously being spoken to me. It’s an amazingly awkward feeling to experience the authority of being the father while equally and exponentially being humbled by the authority of the Father in heaven.
Finally I said to my son, “… so do you understand how you did wrong and you deserve punishment for this, mainly the act of trying to hid your failure?” He said he did so I said “since you understand your mistake and you’re sorry that you tried to hide/lie about it I want to help you fix it and I want to forgive you and not punish you for this mistake because as your daddy I love you and don’t want to punish you”. With the smile that grew on his face came the final joy that I imagine God feels each time one of his kids accepts the forgiveness he’s already laid out for them. At that moment I laid aside the command of authority, I forgot about the stain, gave him a hug and said “I love you buddy”. My love made the stain he put between us void of purpose and use. All in metaphorical illustration, the literal stain of Christ’ blood was allowed to be brought to the surface in the smallest of daily tasks. While he hasn’t yet taken the step to fully ask Jesus in his heart I’m thankful now for the opportunity to help teach him the way. I’m also Thankful that the opportunity that I have to teach my kids isn’t has difficult as the path God had to take to teach His kids. Forgiveness is simple, it’s there waiting to be accepted and understood. I pray that His voice continues to speak to me in the small moments of my own life and those in which I’m responsible for developing the lives around me. Help me continue to see fatherhood as simply discipleship mixed with authority, but help my discipleship always have control of my authority. Help keep the discipline in me always be subject to the disciple you want me to be.
(And as always with this post or any, please I’d love to hear your comments. Not comments of just appreciation of the post, but your thoughts on the topic at hand. I would love for this site to become a discussion board or bible study type platform for those interested in being a part of the community)