My daughter looks angelic when she lies.
Her blue eyes widen, her face takes on an absolutely cherubic innocence and she insists, passionately, that she is telling the truth. It is only upon further questions-- sometimes repeated questioning-- that the facade gives way to what is truly in her heart.
Image courtesy of hannah-stock
As my daughter grows older and, well, more adept at sinning, I find myself confronted with new battlegrounds in the war for her heart. Tearing books? Drawing on pillowcases? Lying to my face? Do I know this child? Of course I do. Ember is realizing that she has the capacity to choose her own way or God's way and the battle is at times intense. As her mother, I am called to fight this battle alongside her, whether it's the first time or the fifth time. Or the fifth time that evening.
Is it exhausting? Yes. Can it be discouraging? Yes. Is it crucial? Yes.
When you are training a small sinner, it can be easy to get distracted by the outward sins because they are often loud and messy and, quite frankly, inconvenient. Toddlers do not often sin quietly, as anyone who's sat next to a two year old tornado in the shopping line can attest. They sin when we are tired, when we are busy, when we are trying to cook dinner or put the baby to bed or give the dog a bath. Figuring out what they've done wrong isn't usually hard. The danger can be that we spend so much energy focusing on these very obvious acts of sin that we forget what's going on in their hearts.
When dealing with Ember, I have learned time and time again that when I get caught up in her actions, I miss the opportunity God has given me to teach her through her sin. I forget, sometimes, that her sin isn't primarily against me but against God. He is the one first and foremost whose relationship must be restored before any human relationship can be right-- even the mother/daughter bond. When I forget this, I tend to react emotionally and superficially. My child disobeys. She lies to cover up the disobedience and so she is spanked. Her sin is preventing me from getting what I want-- peace in the household, obedient and happy children-- so I am offended and in a huff. Nothing is gained, and at the worse the door is opened to improper discipline whether in too harsh words or unkind demeanor.
But when I remember that it is God who has been wronged, my focus shifts from any injustice I imagine myself to have suffered and moves to what I can do to restore Ember to her heavenly Father. I look past the thorns and thistles of her actions to their roots in her heart, to the sinful thoughts and attitudes that caused her to do wrong. Why did she disobey? What was she thinking? When we have these discussions, far more is gained than mere reactionary moral chastisement. She isn't just learning to do what is right; her thoughts are held to the truth of God's word and she is, by grace and mercy, learning how to think right. The spanking spoon is important. But the truth behind the spanking is even more important.
Our little ones' hearts are so often like sand, at this age. They are so open but prone to great influence by their surroundings. Don't let outward action keep you from reaching into your child's heart to continually shore up that which is good and patch any places Satan may have eroded. By God's grace, the truth we zealously guard now may one day harden to cement and form the foundation of their lives as good and happy children of God.
Image courtesy of hannah-stock