If anything can trump everything, we are pushed into punishment.
My stomach twisted in fret like it did on the way up the first hill of the tallest roller coaster in the world When I was ten-years-old. I wasn’t ready to face that fear then, nor was I prepared to hear the Elementary School Principal’s voice on the other end of the line now.
“Lauren made a visit to my office today because she spit in another student’s face…she was very remorseful…that’s what we want to see…”
I caught myself holding my breath just like I did down the first hill of the Magnum XL200 back in 1989, unable to digest the gravity of the situation, nor how my sweet little stinker-pants could possess the ability to make such a terrible decision.
“I’m so sorry, and so embarrassed,” I unraveled to the kindhearted voice on the other end. Not only was this the principal of my kid’s school, but a friend and former colleague from my XC coaching days. I was mega-watt mortified.
Some moments scar more vividly than physical wounds.
The butterflies did laps in my belly as I waved to the Principal in the pick up line that afternoon, and then laid eyes on my little Kindergarten criminal…who was smiling and waving at me as if she’d had a banner day.
“Hi, Mommy!!!!” She bounced into the car with the sweetest smile and eyelashes-a-batting.
“How was your day,” I let out in a wispy tone of shock. This child, who normally cries of remorse before she’s accused, was acting as if I’d gotten the wrong parent phone call just hours earlier.
“Good…he he he!” I expected her eyes to well up and over, but she must have tearfully cleared her conscious already.
“What behavior chart color were you on today?” I asked, and the facial expression fell to fear.
“Purple.” Double edged sword. The first edge being that purple, her all-time favorite color, was at the bottom rung of the behavior scale. The second sharp pinch was the repetition of the offense…this was the second day in a row that the day’s square had been shaded purple. She was warned, reprimanded, repeated and then trumped the previous day’s behavior. And it was Tuesday. #parentfail
“The only reason I didn’t send her home on pink (the very bottom….) was because it wasn’t malicious…I saw the whole thing…she just got carried away…she has an ornery streak in her…” Her sweet teacher explained in a phone call after school.
“Not malicious…” Those words rang like sweet affirmation in my mind filling up fast with motherly doubt. I did know my own child. #notatotalfail
In an instant, the light bulb lit on what had burnt Lauren’s capacity to cope and tendency to act out when squeezed. I saw the painful look on her face the weekend before, and noticed the way she isolated herself. I let my own “anything” matter more than taking the time to teach her to talk, unravel and resolve what was bothering her.
When we are put in the pressure cooker, we are inclined to explode or implode without applying God’s perspective. Lauren needed me to do aid her in that process.
That’s a hard truth for me to recall and apply each day…especially when little red “uh-oh” button is pushed by a child of mine who has decided to live by her own set of rule …but worth the effort not to leave a purple scar. Download the knowledge of this verse along with me…
1. Lift it up and let it go.
Lauren may not always talk out what she needs to process, but the little gal forgives herself with amazing ease. She’s very remorseful when the realization of wrong hits her, but then she let’s herself off the hook. It’s the negative reinforcement of the mistake that causes scarring slip ups to linger. She can recall every “bad color” day she’s ever had. Which is too bad, because they are swimming in a sea of banner days.
God teaches me, through her witness of forgiveness, how bitterness is no more productive than a roller coaster train unexpectedly stuck at the top of the hill. All of the passengers are ready to experience the rest of the ride, but the train of bitterness is stuck at the top, unable to budge. It challenges me to do the work that being quick to forgive requires, lest I miss out on the rest of the ride God’s built into my life.
Jesus’ death opened the line of communication directly to God. The curtain was torn (Deut. 4:7),and the key to peace was given to us in grace by Jesus’ death on the cross. It’s easy to jump into a pool of panic and fear whispers when boundaries are crossed and rules are broken. That’s where discipline leaps off the diving-board.
Consequences must be upheld and new boundaries must be instilled. The laps I ran with my older child don’t always get repeated the same way…or at all…for my youngest. She’s cute, and funny, and the baby, and I’m guilty. Guilty for letting her fly under my radar and peek out every once in a while with an adorable melting of every ounce of my heart.
God showed me recently that “unconfessed sin is a barrier to prayer.” (Foundations, The Chapel.)
“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Isaiah 59:1-2
I appreciate the way God instills confidence in me as a parent through the work He simultaneously performs on my soul. By teaching me to be quick to recognize my lack of discipline and confess my sins, I am now more able to help my children do the same, on their level. #soulwork
2. Communicate with compassion.
If there’s one thing God has helped me do great in my home, it’s apologize to my kids. After all the discipline was addressed, I knew I owed Lauren an apology.
“I forgive you, Lauren,” I began that purple day, “and I’m sorry, too.”
Tears welled up in her eyes, in amazement and relief that someone had noticed, and that someone cared. And with that, the potential for scarring was snuffed out by love.
I apologized to my sweet baby girl for all of the hours every week that she sat in the waiting room at the dance studio while big sister worked for her dream…for all the bed time chats we’ve never had…for not making a better effort to get her together with her friends…and work on her dreams.
“I love you, and what happens in your heart matters to me…you can tell me anything…I’m always here for you…I’ll always forgive you before you even say you’re sorry…and I’ll never love you any less…because that’s how God loves me.”
With a tearful hug, she whispered “thank you, Mommy…I forgive you…I love you…” into my ear.
And there it is…Life within the love of Jesus.
I can’t expect myself or my child to be perfect, or “180” into everyone’s glorious approval …and I can’t prevent the scars she racks up from the lack of obedience we all struggle with. But I will love her always, and I can bring her to lean into everything that I know about Him, to withstand anything that tries to push me into punishment…through Christ, who gives me strength (Phil 4:13) ..through His scars.