Bright sunshine, a little breeze, a big backyard, friends, and a water sprinkler…it was the setup for a morning of fun. The excitement had been building all morning. Approximately three and a half minutes into having the sprinkler turned on, the yelling began. Clearly, one girl was standing where another one wanted to stand and the only logical choice to make, was to yell at each other.
Once we made eye contact, the tears started as she ran to me. “I forgot momma, I forgot that we were making good decisions today…and I messed up.”
Cue the heartbreaking while still trying to being a firm parent.
The words that started to come out of my mouth were, “Yes, that’s right. You are going to have to try and do better.” But by the grace of my Savior, He let me think before I spoke. You see, He’s been talking to me a lot about the words that I say to my daughters. Because here’s the deal, whatever I say – no matter how nonchalantly – is making an impact in their tiny hearts and minds.
Phrases like “do better”, “try harder”, “be a good girl”, all can flow out pretty easily but I’m really to the point of thinking that they shouldn’t. They all lead to self dependence…thinking if I can only (do better, try harder, be a good girl) then I won’t (get in trouble, disappoint my parents, have consequences).
Whether my girls are 2 or 82, I don’t want them to ever think they can do it on their own…that it’s up to them to figure out this life. I want to focus their eyes, heart, mind, & soul on Jesus. I desire for them to grow up knowing HE is the only one who can do good through them. They need to understand that He alone is perfect and He alone can give them wisdom for making the right choices.
My daughters (4 1/2 years & 19 months) do not yet know the Lord as their personal Savior, but how else will they begin to understand their need for Him if they are under the impression that they can just “try harder to be a good girl” without Him? Ha! I do know Him personally & intimately and I still struggle with thinking I can win more of His love and affection through self sustainability.I want to do everything I can so that my girls know from as early as possible that they need Jesus. He’s not an invisible prize waiting at the end of a prayer to come into your heart. He is a Savior who is mighty to save & rejoices over us with singing. He is a warrior who already has the victory. He is the Rock on which we stand. He is God and He loves them passionately.
These lessons are not just for Sunday School, the Word tells us we are to “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:9 (NIV) It’s our calling as parents to teach and guide our children. Which in turn means that we need to evaluate the things we say as commonplace.
A few days ago she sighed, “Momma, I prayed about this…and it’s not working”. I asked her when she said this prayer. She replied, “like a few years ago” (which in her terms of time could mean anywhere from the night before to a few months ago). We talked about how right now, her heart only knows the wrong way to do things…but that Jesus can change that. I told her how I talk to Him all day long and that I still make choices that aren’t honoring to Him when I try to do things on my own. Slowly, she’s understanding that it’s not just a one time deal of asking for His intervention but it’s a way of life.
The water sprinkler fiasco was pretty ordinary for 3 & 4 year olds but if I had just brushed it off as childish behavior then I believe I would have missed an opportunity to point her to Jesus. That day we talked about asking God for help to make wise choices and to guide our words to be kind and encouraging. We talked about our choices not as “good or bad” but as “honoring or not honoring”. Our almost 2 year old more than likely has no clue what that means but our 4 year old…she’s catching on. She’s heard us say a few times that we can’t “be good” by simply trying harder (how exhausting is that?!?!) but that we need to keep running to Jesus, walking with Him, & asking for His help, guidance, and direction.The funny thing is that parenting like this…it just means I’m continually learning something, preaching to my own heart if you will. Even when it goes completely over my girls’ heads, it pierces my heart. It’s the Gospel no matter who is listening. So, won’t you join me? Let’s let go of this “do better, try harder” lifestyle and just keep running to Jesus – even when we’re playing in the water sprinkler.