Big Children. Little Adults.
Children are some of the greatest blessings that we can ever be given. Though they are emotional, expensive, messy, needy, and reckless there are few things that will bring you more joy or that you ought to love more dearly.
But, oh! How they try your patience. You endeavor, from the youngest age, to teach them about what's right and wrong. Sometimes they obey. Oftentimes they do not. Eventually you realize that you're struggling against nature. It becomes clear that there's a part of them that wants to obey and then there's a part of them that could very much do without you telling them what to do. They want to do what they want to do and you represent just a very large and imposing obstacle to doing it.
At this point it may be good to point out that all of the above descriptors that we applied to children (emotional, expensive, messy, needy, reckless) could just as easily be applied to us as adults. I can't tell you how many times I've chided my children for some form of misbehavior only to have my tongue catch in my throat as I realized I was guilty of committing the adult version of the same offense. It's humbling.
If you think about it, adults are simply large children, and children are little adults. We can be very emotional (but someone else is always responsible for those emotions), extremely expensive (but we really do need all the things we buy), messy (but we have lives to live so disorganization and clutter are only natural), needy (but, hey, we work hard so we deserve attention and service from others), and reckless (but it's really not my fault; they made me do it). Is any of this hitting home?
I remember not too long ago discovering that my youngest son had done something that he had been expressly forbidden to do. As a matter of fact, he had been told multiple times not to do this particular thing and yet there he was, defying our instructions for the third or fourth time. Once again he expressed sorrow for what he had done, but I had had enough. After having spent some time explaining why what he did was unacceptable I said, "You know, you say you're sorry a lot but you never really change your ways. It's getting to where sorry doesn't mean anything anymore because I know that your heart isn't set to do what I say."
No sooner had I finished saying this than I almost choked on the hypocrisy of my words — literally. It was as if everything that came out of my mouth turned right around and stared me in the face. It was true — actually truer of me than it was of my son — I often told my Lord how sorry I was for my disobedience towards his commands; so often in fact that my apologies had become hollow. What he really wanted was for me to change my ways; then all of the "I'm sorry's" would actually mean something.
Yesterday, we told three of our children that they would get to ride on an old fire truck later in the day courtesy of a family friend. We were clear, however, that certain things needed to get done around the house before we left. Well, they decided to do other things and when it came time to leave I informed them that they would instead be accompanying Caroline and I to her doctor's appointment since they hadn't done as we had asked. Weeping and wailing ensued. :(
On the way to the doctor, two of them told us that they understood why they weren't allowed to go and that they deserved it (hallelujah!). The third child was still sobbing with his head and his hands, occasionally protesting that it was totally unfair to expect him to have to work just to get a privilege. Ahem. I informed him that we saw it differently. It wasn't that we were expecting him to work in order to obtain a privilege; however, how could we give the privilege if he refused to do what we had asked? Then the clincher – "You chose to play on the computer and with your toys instead of riding on that fire truck. You made your decision."
I immediately knew I was often guilty of the same thing - doing things that pleased me in the moment only to discover that I had missed or seriously delayed my opportunity at a real blessing down the road. I felt like a grown-up child talking to a little adult.
Raising children is an incredible challenge. Their tendency to go against our wishes can be terribly frustrating and it's tempting to give in to anger. We shouldn't. While it's true that children can be very obstinate and hard of hearing, and they stumble a lot along the way, we of all people should understand. The very same thing could be said of us as adults.
Let us seek to restore our children in the spirit of meekness, considering ourselves and our own shortcomings as we all strive (young and old) to become more obedient to the will of God.