I held my breath as the woman on the other line cleared her throat and began to speak. It was my stepson’s principal calling us about yet another incident of him disrupting his class. What she had to say wasn’t easy to hear, but it was nothing new. For the past few years, our son’s grades, attention span, and respect for authority had been going downhill faster than we could keep up. As she explained how he repeatedly disrespected a teacher and then smirked at the principal when she asked him why he did it, a burst of red hot anger washed over me. How dare he? This kid isn’t a neglected child with no direction. This is a child who has been prayed for, taught the Gospel, regularly taken to church, and affirmed in his talents and standing with Christ throughout his entire life. He is frequently reminded how loved and precious he is to our family and to God. He is the apple of our eye, with every opportunity to thrive and succeed before him. Why doesn’t he see that his rebellion and disrespect only leads to destruction? Why won’t he realize how much his actions are hurting his parents? Does he even care? When I got off the phone and began driving home, I furiously began to mentally construct the lecture I was going to give him when I saw him. As my case against him began to mount, God impressed a simple statement upon my heart that silenced the flame:
“You treat me the same way all the time”
Instantly, indignation gave away to conviction. I was humbled at how God could use any situation to teach me something about Himself. As parents, we struggle to hold our temper and understand why our children ignore and disobey our wise counsel while doing the same to our Heavenly Father. Just like our kids, we pout when we don’t get our way, forgetting all the ways He’s provided in the past. We take matters into our own hands, dismissing all the times He’s worked things out in our favor. We ask “why me” without thanking him for all the times He spared us from trials and heartache. We continually seek to be filled by the world’s pleasures while He waits patiently for us to run back to Him on empty.
People say that if you want to understand God’s love better, have children. Maybe that was God’s ultimate purpose for the parent-child relationship all along. Maybe instead of blowing up at our children for how they defy us, we should be thanking God for allowing us to feel just an ounce of what He feels when we defy Him. Wasn’t that what Jesus was referring to when, after thousands of His children spat, mocked, and beat him to a pulp, He said “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”? I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t be hurt or affected by what our children do. I’m also not suggesting that we should ignore or tolerate misbehavior. God may be fiercely loving and merciful, but he also shows righteous anger when necessary. But I do believe that recognizing how we fall short as children of God will give us a more Christ-like approach when dealing with our own.
As I arrived home, I had an almost supernatural gratitude towards the situation with my stepson. I knew that it will never stop being hard or hurtful when he misbehaves, but I was in awe of a God who uses the brokenness of our world to reflect His love. The most important thing He taught me that day was that even though I will continue to be rebellious and lose sight of His promises from time to time, He will always be there, waiting and praying for me to return to Him. As parents, that’s the best example for loving our kids the way Christ loves us. Continue to train up your children in the way they should go and one day you’ll rejoice when they return to it.