I should have seen it coming…
The way he darted around the shop bored.
Him hovering over his sister, “Swiper”, waiting to snatch the balloon off her hand.
That quick slap on her chubby thigh? — things that only a big brother can do.
I should have known him better. Intimately knowing his strengths, and what makes him laugh and love – all the things I cherish about him. But then there are things that make him tick too. Points of vulnerability that make him trip. Moments of life where temptations loom larger than the love, and flaws hurl one out of fellowship with the family.
Hurricanes always form with brief gusts of wind and emotional blow up is always a product of a string of poor choices, adults and children the same.
I am Mum and I have known my own fair share of weaknesses and I should have prepared the day better.
It was a day of our choosing and I sensed trouble brewing. Adults making choices on the type of flooring to buy, and that kid making his choice on vice versus virtue.
That day at the floor shop, he was a ball of energy.
And I should have followed the link: all energy needs channeling and every power an outlet.
I should have provided him with the outage, because even Superman needs his sleep.
The sales lady walked over to me and handed me a glossy magazine. On the front page were emblazoned these words “Inspiring Choices”. Yep…the multitudes of options available, with every latest trend on carpet, timber, and bamboo, to laminate, vinyl and tiles, are honestly?, quite overwhelming. A single decision landing on a whole decade of living.
But nothing can be as overwhelming as a child left undisciplined…nothing as trying and defeating as a nature untrained.
“Muumm…” his first whine, a slow and steady arising.
The sales lady was busy explaining all the different grades of floors. They all differ in strength and resilience. I saw him wriggling like warm jelly. I aimed to make my conversation short on what’s anti scratch and anti-slip. I mouthed him my silent instruction, swayed my head and motioned: “just a few more minutes of waiting, please?”
His eyes pleading: “it’s been longer than 10 minutes, Mum…”
“Looks can deceive,” my husband told me. “You can get porcelain tiles that look like wood, and laminates that resemble stone, and you can replace each broken vinyl when it cracks”…yeah, but there ain’t no repairing with cracks that happen out of words that hurt and actions that maim.
That was when I saw a claw-shaped hand pinching his sister who had been running about happily.
How do I tell him – “Stop!”, and tell her…”watch out”? I was a second too late, then came the screech: “You hurt me…“, tears spilling from her eyes.
Did the lady say the glossiest porcelain are the hardest to keep? That every surface will reflect every strain of dirt? The Word is our mirror, and I’m left looking bare into the anger of my own heart.
James Dobson said it right, “babies come into the world with no instructions, and you pretty much assemble them on your own…they are maddeningly complex and there are no guaranteed formulas. Even the most intelligent professionals are struggling with their child rearing responsibilities at home…”
You have to sympathise with the soldier mum who confessed: it’s easier to be on the battle front than to be at home.
Forego character training, and you forfeit a life of virtues. Undervalue your role at home, and you set yourself up for a life of disappointment.
The way to raise kids who turn out right is by partnering with the grace of God in life. Imprint a deep love for God, .and make that impression last by walking your own life in the place of the redeemed of God.
Grace always redeems. Rules may clamp and bind, but love always, always liberates.
So I sat both down – the prey and the predator, the sinner and the one about to sin. On that same lush carpet, we’re all on equal ground, every child has a sin of their own.
I handed him the brochures I had collected. Looking at floors and picking your choice seem like art – a whole world on a blank canvas.
React to a child in anger and you lose the opportunity to influence and instil virtues.
I’m learning that character is bred and this is my season of sowing, my careful planting, my deliberate watering.
The day saw the unravelling of more ugliness from our hearts. Those defiant choices to misbehave, those calculated decisions to disobey. And with that, the heart breaking consequences Mum and Dad had to deliver. I swat with my words and I stared down with my eyes.
How do i tell him that everyday he gets to make choices? Everyday we get to choose, and every moment our moment of decision.
We can all choose to be led by the good or lose control to the impulse of our own sinful flesh. That we all get to choose what we want to do, but there’s no escaping from the consequences they carry.
I am the womb that birthed him life and I want to be the mouth that gives him faith.
Words that condemn are sketched forever, but words that convict can eternally life-give.
So when the night got darker and his heart got harder and the tears got stronger, I asked him — I asked me, these three questions, “Why did you do that? Why is it wrong? How can you make it right?”.
All the time praying feverishly for Gospel light to break in.
I got down on my knees, looked into his eyes…into the darkness of the heart’s abysses and know that my only hope was for a heart transplant, a mind metamorphosis.
Slowly, he looked up to me. Haltingly, came his simple confession. “I couldn’t help it Mum, I didn’t have self control.” Words unabridged, unedited, but ringing victory songs in my ears.
Glassy eyed, I sensed his brokenness. Admitting his own inability, I knew Gospel grace was making its way in.
Through the tears streaming down his face, I looked deep into his eyes and asked if he wanted to know where help comes from. Sitting him on my lap, I whispered, “…your help’s from above…”. I put two fingers in the shape of the Cross and placed them on his palm.
” This is your hope…our hope.”
It is only the grace of God which saves. Grace making sense only when sin’s gravity is felt .
But the grace that saves is also the grace that transforms. And it is in this atmosphere of grace that sinners can be turned into saints.
And this is purely the work of God — complete transformation through the work of Christ on the Cross. True change where behavioural modification fall short.
The night felt like the lifting of a shroudy veil.
I saw him worshipping in his own little way at Church the next day.
The burden of what he ought to be in his own little strength, they’re falling off his shoulders.
And the pressure to produce the perfect child lifting off my own shoulders too.
Grace came flooding in like a flood of lights.
I find my place next to my little man doing my own little waltz. Nothing feels better in parenting when you’ve got help from high places. Our feet feeling like we’re both standing on the strongest flooring ever.