The other day we went on an overnight trip with the Christian World staff to Houston in order to participate in a conference at Lakewood. My wife and I have yet leave our three-year-old son Avery overnight with anybody outside our parents, so it meant that on this trip Avery would be coming with us. For those of you without kids, this means having a three-year-old over energetic boy stay quiet and behaved for at least 6 hours. One might have more luck getting a vegan to eat bacon or my brother Jacob to eat vegetables. This is not to say Avery is a bad kid, but he is three and a boy.
My wife and I prepared our son for the day ahead of him. We brought his iPhone so he could play games and watch movies, we even set him up with earphones so he would be wrapped up in his own world of iPhone entertainment. I told Avery that a long day was ahead, and I wanted him to try his best to be quiet, good and patient, and I even resorted to bribery. I told him that if he behaved himself, I would take him to the store to pick out a toy.
The day of the conference came and he sat quietly playing with his iPhone for a few hours; my bribe had worked, so far. After a quick lunch break we went to our last session. Then 15 minutes into the session, Avery’s iPhone battery died. Like a three-year-old, he became restless, agitated and bored. I reminded him about the reward that awaited him, but it did little to stave off his boredom.
The last session ended and so did Avery’s last bit of waning patience. He was ready to go; he was pulling on me, fussing, crying, basically throwing a fit. Inside I wanted to give him a good shaking and say “boy, you had better get right, or I will go old school on you”, but I didn’t. The little guy had been good all day, and I understood that he was misbehaving because he had enough, so I refrained and offered grace, but I had also had enough. I grabbed Avery and made bee-line to the nearest men’s room.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, 99% of the time our bathroom excursions do not result in spankings, yet they produce 100% results. The idea is not to punish the behavior, but to correct it, and remove him from the situation so I get his full attention.
I knelt down and looked Avery in the eyes. I let him know I understood why he was frustrated, I told him that I was very proud of him that he had been so patient and good all day, but his current behavior would not be accepted. I reminded him again of the reward that awaited him, but he needed to get right. I hugged him, kissed him and told him I loved him. Then I asked him for a hug, and he hugged me, kissed me on my cheek and said, “I love you daddy, I’m sorry.” Avery left the restroom happy and calm. Later that day, as promised, I took him to pick out a new Spider-man toy, and as a special treat we went to the Rainforest Cafe, where he sat by a mechanical tiger.
Our heavenly father loves us, He knows we are not perfect, He knows we will make mistakes and will sin. God sent His only begotten son Jesus to save us from our sins, so we could live without condemnation, be redeemed through the cross and saved by grace. Jesus didn’t do die for us because we are perfect or because it would make us sinless, but to take on our sins, so we could be redeemed to the Father, in spite of our sins.
Our Father wants us to succeed, He want us to go to heaven, He sets us up to win, the same way I gave Avery an iPhone to play with to keep him from acting up. He has given us the promise of a reward in heaven, the same way I promised Avery a toy, not because he was perfect or because he wouldn’t make any mistakes, but because I love him in spite of his mistakes. Even though Avery acted up, he had it in his heart to be good and he asked for forgiveness, so I spared him and showed love towards him.
God isn’t the boogeyman, He isn’t out to get us, He does not revel in our failure and He certainly doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Why else would He give us grace? I am not saying grace gives us free reign to sin, but that our righteousness is like filthy rags to God, and He still loves us. Even when we fall and make mistakes our Father loves us, forgives us, and blesses us because He wants us to have the reward He promised us.