As 5 and 6 year-olds, Terrell and Ellison were best buddies but they had their share of fights, too. When they fought, Terrell or I required they reconcile by apologizing, asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness, in turn. They knew the routine and obeyed, though sometimes begrudgingly. Yes, this was exhausting! But it paid great dividends down the road. In fact, before we were even deep in the trenches of this training, my husband and I learned something significant.
One morning we got in an argument, and it ended with my turning my back in a huff and my husband marching out the door to work. Unfortunately, this took place in full view of the children. A little later as I drove Ellison to kindergarten, he said:
“Mommy, can I ask you somethin’?”
“How come you make Terrell and me say our ‘sorries’ but you and Daddy don’t?”
My heart sank. Ellison’s words made me cringe with embarrassment. If those are his words, what else has he thought?… How confusing for such a little boy.
My hypocrisy shook my heart. I knew this wasn’t the first time my behavior didn’t match things I was teaching them. This morning I’d behaved like a child, only no one called me back into the room to make up with my husband. I felt guilty about how I’d spoken to Terrell and embarrassed by my contradictory example in front of our kids.
“You’re right, Ellison. Mommy and Daddy didn’t do that right. We teach you and Terrell and Cecilia to say your ‘sorries’. Daddy and I should, too. I’m so glad you said something to me. As soon as I get home, I’m going to call Daddy so we can say our ‘sorries.’”
Following a conversation of forgiveness, Terrell and I discussed the influence of our example on three sets of watchful eyes and made a plan to follow-up at supper.
“We told God how sorry we are for how we behaved with each other by not asking for each other’s forgiveness. And we told Him we were sorry that we did that in front of you since we’re teaching you to forgive.” Ellison beamed at his acclaimed role in helping Mom and Dad obey God. Then we talked about how hard it is to obey God sometimes. They all nodded knowingly which made us smile.
Next, I think we shocked them. “We want to teach you what God says, and we didn’t set a good example to you. And we’re sorry. Will you forgive us?” Unfamiliar with being asked this question, they nodded their heads – with open mouths.
What we didn’t expect was the way our young ones responded. Their eyes were fixed as they tracked with our every word. They were loving and so glad that Mommy and Daddy had made up. As we were humble, their admiration was evident. Their response was God’s grace to us.
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5.5b-6)
Our children witness and process many experiences silently. Terrell and I are grateful to God that on this day Ellison processed his thoughts out loud with me. We learned a powerful lesson.
Raising our children is not all-about-them. In the “meanwhile” of pouring into them, we have much opportunity to learn.
You know that I have much to learn, just as I know my children have much to learn. Help me have a humble and teachable heart. Thank you for loving me so much. Thank you that you are always at work in the “meanwhiles”. Amen.