The nine hardest words
Sitting at my good friend’s kitchen table, I felt cranky and overwhelmed by our family's circumstances and all the houses my husband and I had seen that day. In other words, I was not fully trusting God. I was looking down.
As I was recounting the details of the day to my friends at the table, I let a word roll off my tongue that I wouldn’t allow my kids to use. And before I could get another word out, I heard a sweet little voice from behind me say, “Mom, I heard that.”
I turned to see Cal sitting at the table in the next room playing legos and listening intently to my every word.
“You heard what Cal?”
“I heard what you said Mom”
“What did I say Cal?”
“You know, Mom.”
“No I don’t Cal”
“Yes you do Mom”….. and he turned back to his legos.
I sat there thinking, “Wow. I just turned into an 8 year old bantering with another 8 year old. “Yes you did. No I didn’t. Yes you did. No I didn’t.”
I could tell you the word I used but it’s not exciting and it’s not the point. The point is the next word I mouthed to my friends sitting at the table with me – “busted.”
I tried to continue on in conversation with my friends but the conviction came quickly. I knew what I had to do, and I asked Cal to join me in the next room alone.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
I sat face to face with my precious son and confessed, “Cal, Mommy needs to apologize and ask for your forgiveness. I used a word I have taught you not to say, and then I was not honest about it when you told me you heard me say it.”
And then I offered Cal what my own Dad calls the nine hardest words in the English language.
“I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
My apology was a lot less about the word I used and a lot more about not being honest with my son. I was busted and I was embarrassed, and if I’m being totally honest, I was ashamed.
See, we have an expression that we like to use in our family. It’s “tell the truth, even when it’s difficult.” We talk about what sin does to our hearts, and how important it is to be honest not only in the big stuff, but also in the small stuff. Little white lies are still lies.
Honesty is one of the six virtues we have chosen to teach our kids about how we can grow in Jesus’ likeness – six virtues for growing in Christ-like character. And these six virtues are what I hope to explore with you in future blogs in this section.
These six virtues, which are listed below, are not in any particular order and they don’t include all of the things we hope to teach our children. They do however represent the bigger picture and the ways in which we hope to teach our children to love what Jesus loves and to do what Jesus would do.
The virtues are: Respect Kindness Self-control Thankfulness Peacemaking & …… Honesty
And I had just failed miserably at modeling honesty.
But here is the good news (the very good news) that God reminded me of in that moment of seeking forgiveness from my son.
Modeling a “life in Christ” for our kids is not about always getting it right. If it were, I would have given up a long time ago.
No, modeling a life in Christ is mostly about modeling how much we need Jesus.
We need Jesus to help us live like He did. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to convict, melt, and transform our hearts over and over again to mold us into His image. And we need His sweet, sweet sacrifice on the cross for when we fail.
We need His strength for when we are weak. He need His hope for when we feel hopeless. We need His love for when we feel loveless.
We need His grace.
After I offered the nine hardest words to Cal, I reminded Cal that Mommy is a sinner who needs a Savior, and I whispered in his ear, “Thank God for Jesus.”
See, as much as I desire to model the kind of life Jesus calls us to live as His disciples, I have to daily remind myself that Jesus didn’t say, “They will know you are my disciples by your perfection.” No, He said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love.”
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus is my kid’s perfect example. And more than that, He is my kid’s faithful and loving Savior. I can do my best to reflect His life and His heart to my kids but I will fail. I am human, and I am fallen, and I need my Savior, just as they are human and fallen and need their Savior.
And because of what He did for us on the cross – a divine exchange of our sin for His perfect righteousness - I am set free to confess my sin to my son and to confess my sin to my Savior, and know that I am fully covered and fully forgiven in Christ.
When I was done with my apology Cal hugged me tight and whispered, “It’s okay Mommy. I forgive you.”
And with a full heart, I replied, “Thank you baby. I love you so much.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
I know some parents fear that if they allow their child to see their weakness and sin, their child may not respect them as they ought. I think it’s quite the contrary. When we are honest and authentic with our children about our own sin, they will actually begin to understand the power of His forgiveness through us. It will fix their eyes on Jesus, and the freedom that He purchased for us on the cross. It will fix their eyes on His grace.
They will know we are His disciples by our ……. perfection? No.
They will know we are His disciples by our love!