Joy in parenting

17 10 2008

I watched as Asher and Will walked by with arms full of blocks and stuffed animals. Once, twice, three times they hurried in and out. They had that look on their faces. From my chair I could not see where the treasures were being buried, but I was suspicious.

My husband was up to his elbows in dishes, but I alerted him to the secret plot unfolding behind his back. His hands still in my purple dish gloves, he walked on the deck to asses the situation. Asher and Will were hiding in the playhouse and the toys were nowhere to be seen. Blocks, balls, stuffed animals and puzzle pieces had been cast off the deck into the blackberry bushes.

In the moment, I have the choice to yell or laugh – or somehow to address my son’s rebellion in a way that draws his heart to Christ.

By God’s grace, my husband and I take this path. We calmly explain to the boys that they need to come inside and ask them to clean up the toys after dinner. After Will goes home, we explain to Asher that there will be a consequence for his disobedience. He has thrown away many of his little brother’s toys and he is responsible for his behavior.

We ask Asher to work to earn money to pay Micah back. For two weeks, he takes out the trash, rakes leaves, gathers the laundry, vacuums the floor and helps Mark with projects. He earns $1 for every job he completes and when he has earned $20, we take him shopping to buy new toys for Micah.

Asher helps Micah pick out a new ball, a bath tub basketball hoop, and a counting toy. That night, when the boys take a bath, Asher carelessly breaks Micah’s new basketball hoop. This time he is heartbroken that he has hurt his brother. He asks to be given more jobs so that he can earn more money to buy Micah another hoop.

That night, we sit down to read one of Asher’s favorite books: the Lego Old Testament. We read the story of the creation and fall from Genesis 1-3. For the first time, as we read Asher this familiar story, he can see himself in Adam.

He recognizes that like Adam, he understands God’s rules. He sees that he tried to blame his disobedience on someone else. When he is caught in his sin, he tries to hide just like Adam and Eve. He agrees that Adam and Eve have disobeyed God and that God needs to punish their sin. He understands that work is hard and soberly accepts the consequences for his sin.

He struggles to understand some things about this story. And how do we explain satan, sin, death and hell to a preschooler?  While Asher has a childlike faith in God, he is not yet a Christian. In this moment, he can see that he is a sinner in need of a savior – but how do we lead him to Jesus?

As I look back on the last three weeks, I see how easy it would have been to yell at Asher about the toys. Likewise, it would have been easy to dismiss his behavior as foolish and to laugh. But somehow, by God’s grace, we let his rebellion be an opportunity to teach him about his heart and his need for Jesus.

I see a mighty battle in the heart of my little one: a struggle between obedience and sin, truth and lies, satan and Jesus, life and death. Engaging in this fight is the ultimate joy and privilege of parenthood. We have been trusted with the lives of these precious little people whom God loves more than we do. We’ve been given the task of teaching them about Jesus.

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