This weeks home schooling was exceptionally challenging. Keeping the kids on track and focused, especially made me a bit crazy! My seven year old can have what one would call,“selective hearing.” The kind where I have to ask him to do the same thing over, and over, and over and there is no response till you mention something he is interested in like, “candy!” Game-boy!” “Park!” I can be the same way sometimes, totally zoned out till someone mentions, “Chocolate!” “Massage!”
Well, after a lot of asking, eventually mom gets a bit frazzled and Dad chimes in. “You need to listen and obey your mom or you are going to loose weekend privileges!”
Now, if you know our family, you know about our “weekend privileges.” Weekend privileges is when the Crowder family lets loose! We keep a pretty solid rule that during the school week (Monday thru Friday) we don’t watch movies, play video games or eat sugar. But when Friday evening rolls around, and if all the chores are done, then you are free to “binge!” Our home quickly transforms into a movie watching, video game playing and sugar consuming Festivus! The kids cherish this part of the week like nothing else. In fact, there was a time when my younger children would count time by when the weekend last was and, how many more days till the weekend. When I asked my youngest son what his favorite holiday was, he quickly replied, “the weekend!” It is pretty simple, come Friday night we party hard!
So after my son didn’t obey me for the umpteenth time his weekend, privileges were revoked. In fact, there was so much repetitive ignoring of thy mother that the weekend privileges were taken away without the option of earning them back! That is a big blow for a young Crowder. A BIG BLOW!
When Friday rolled around and the youngest Crowder was excluded from the computer, from his iPod and from candy, he felt it pretty hard. Deeply felt was the consequence of those actions, he was so sad.
As we saw our son, sitting alone reading during the weekend, I thought, “HA! He will never ignore me again!” But I also felt so sad that he was without his favorite activities on such a favorite day of the week. John was firm in his consequence, but also sad at watching our young party animal of a son reading on the couch whilst his siblings watched a movie in the other room.
John took him aside and said, “son, I bet you wish you had been obedient don’t you?” “Yes.” “You know you made these bad choices to not listen to your mom and that is why you have lost your weekend privileges, right?” “Yes.”
Just when I was so pleased with how firm and consistent we had been in our parenting John did something unexpected!
“Son, even though you don’t deserve it, and you can’t earn it back, I am going to give you your weekend privileges back anyway!”
What about “Spare the rod, spoil the child?” I thought.
What about sticking to your guns. Teaching him a lesson?
Then it dawned on me while I observed the whole transaction of forgiveness and the celebration of regaining a lost party privilege. That is what the Lord does with us all the time. He gives us our weekend privileges back every time! Even though we may have a short-lived punishment or consequence, we are always reconciled through His Grace. I sat there, wondering if my son would ever learn to listen and obey after that, or take us seriously, but I knew he was bewildered and overjoyed at his Dad’s mercy, and that was a greater lesson than sticking to the punishment would have ever been. At least this one time for this little boy.
John began to ask a very thankful little boy, “do you think you will want to ignore and disobey your mom anymore?”
“No, because you have been so nice to me Dad!”
While it is good to stick with a punishment most of the time, and not threaten a consequence that you cannot keep, I love to show mercy to my children when I can.
“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!” ~Romans 6:1-7 Message.
We should want to walk in obedience and integrity because His Grace abounds, because of His kindness and love He has shown us. That is where our relationship with our father should be. That is where we thrive in our hearts, when we are compelled and empowered by His Goodness.
While I will still have to deal out punishment to my children for disobedience (the Bible being pretty clear about that) I really want my children to be compelled to live Godly lives and respect and honor others because they are aware of the Mercy God has shown us on a daily basis.
Punishment is good, and necessary, but Mercy is always better.