Like Children

Children can be so full of forgiveness and unconditional love. They believe us so completely and wholeheartedly. It blows me away every day that no matter how impatient or frustrated or angry or mean I get with my children throughout the day, when I apologize and ask them to forgive me, they do so with a smile and a kiss and an “I love you, Mama,” without even a moment’s hesitation.

Among some people who believe in the doctrines of original sin and total depravity, there is an overwhelmingly heavy emphasis on sin in children, constantly pounding that point, telling them how horribly sinful they are, that it seems it is easy for parents to lose sight of the fact that their children are made in God’s image, beautiful, loving, forgiving. It is easy to forget how tenderly Jesus treated them and spoke of them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:1-6

Amounts, ratios … they matter. They show the emphasis, what is considered important.

When children are constantly told how sinful they are, and more time is spent talking to them about their sin than about God’s love and forgiveness and the power of the Cross and Communion, then the darkness of sin will overshadow the Light in their hearts. As a parent, my most important task is to do whatever I can to reflect the light of God’s love, so they are surrounded by it no matter where they turn.

“Love makes you strong. Love makes you beautiful. Love makes you precious. God loves you. Mama loves you. Daddy loves you. [Insert long list of people who love the child here.] That makes you strong and beautiful and special.”

Most days, at the end of the day, I feel like such a failure as a parent. Then at bedtime when we talk about our day and I ask my children for forgiveness for the times during the day I was impatient or angry with them, I see how quick and happy they are to forgive, I see how eager they are to talk about Resurrection and Communion when we talk about sin, and I am so encouraged and overwhelmed by the love of God they reflect towards me. They are quick to ask for forgiveness from their parents and from each other, too.

Every now and then, we talk about more difficult aspects of love and forgiveness and repentance.

  • Forgiveness is one-sided: whether the offending person repents, it is always required.
  • Forgiving is NOT forgetting: restoration and reconciliation can only happen if both sides are repentant, open and honest.
  • Depending on the offense involved, there are situations where reconciliation is not possible till after the Second Coming, but no matter what the situation, someday, everything will be resolved.

Over the last few months, as I have started consciously trying to learn from my children, listening to them, really listening, I have found myself drawing closer to God, listening to God, appreciating the small things, noticing more, and I have found that they are so much more willing to listen to me and learn from me.

And we are all so, so much happier.

God gave me to my children so He can speak to them through me. And He gave them to me so He can speak to me through them.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

? G.K. Chesterton

Eternal Brothers, Confessing & Forgiving

Eternal Brothers

Looking back from eternity future to my life in the present, as each moment becomes the past, I feel every day more and more how fleeting my time on this earth is. And as my children become visibly bigger every day, and learn to do new things, learn new words, feel new feelings, time passes faster and faster.

I look at them wistfully, knowing that my time as a mother is getting shorter and shorter with each passing moment. My relationship with them as a mother will only be for a few more years. Then after that, for all eternity, my children will be my brothers.

In fact, they are already my baptized brothers in Christ and He has only put them into my care temporarily. They are God’s children first, as I am. They are my children second.

Don’t call me an egalitarian. If you know me, I am far from it. However, egalitarianism is an oversimplification and a misrepresentation of an eternal truth: each of us is equal before Him. And thinking of my children as being my baby brothers has partially changed the way I relate to them. (It also affects how husbands and wives relate to each other, but that is a whole different topic.)

Every finite human reflects the infinite Trinity. And though we are finite, there are more aspects to each of us than we know. I am the normal things: daughter, sister, wife, mother. And I am part of the Bride of Christ. The Bible also says I am a son and brother.

When I call my children my brothers, I am not downplaying or denying that I have been given authority and responsibility as a parent, I am mentioning an aspect of parenting that I do not hear as often, which I wish I could: parents and children as eternal brothers.

 

Confessing & Forgiving

Remembering it has helped me keep my attitude in check and it is something I have been thinking about a lot on and off for the past year. It has brought about two changes in the last few months in my daily interaction with my children that I never expected: I started confessing my sins against my children to them and asking for their forgiveness and after I started doing that they began to point out blatantly obvious shortcomings to me and to my husband when we are in the middle of committing them.

At first, it was not easy for me to get on my knees, look into their eyes, and ask for forgiveness. Not just say, “Hey, I’m sorry,” or “I’m not perfect, nobody is” or “Parents make mistakes sometimes, y’know,” but truly ask for forgiveness: “I sinned when I did that. Would you please forgive me?” But as I did it over and over, it became easier and easier.

When my older two (verbal) children suddenly started telling me when I was sinning and telling me to stop it, I was shocked! I was angry! How disrespectful! How dare they! I had clearly lacked teaching them the Fifth Commandment! But as I thought about it, I realized maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe it was even … right? Yes, I now believe it is. Because God’s law is above us all. And they are my brothers.

Last week, my husband and I were trying to figure out what we were going to pick up at Costco. I can’t even remember what we were saying exactly because we weren’t disagreeing about anything but decibels were getting higher because we were, y’know, so tired (2 teething babies), so hungry, and we both really hate talking about money.

My 3-year-old son walked into the kitchen and said calmly said to me in a very grown-up voice, “Mama, stop yelling at Daddy.” He turned to Ben, “Daddy, stop yelling at Mama.” Then he looked at both of us with his hands up, admonishing us, “OK? Talk nicely.” And he left the kitchen.

Every time I remember it, I end up laughing out loud at how he talked to us like a little adult when we were acting like children. I’m so thankful and happy that he was completely unafraid to approach us and talk to us that way even though he could tell we were upset.

Eventually, of course, we’ll have to have a talk about when it’s appropriate and inappropriate to confront people. But for now, I’m happy with him.

My children sin against God and against me every day. But I sin against God and against my children every day as well.

I believe that one of the most important things I can do as a parent is to make sure I acknowledge my sins to my children, especially my sins against them, and ask for their forgiveness. Not just say, “I shouldn’t have done that,” or “I’m sorry,” but “Please forgive me for [this specific sin] that I committed against you.” True repentance is very specific.

It is difficult for anyone to acknowledge sin but it is especially difficult for those in authority to acknowledge wrongdoing to those below them. Asking for forgiveness from my children when I have wronged them is not only the right thing for me to do and required of me, I am doing it in order to set an example of repentance for them to follow (as pitiful as my example may be).

Sometimes, my children try to apologize saying, “I’m sorry but I hit him because he took my toy.” I tell them that when they are asking for forgiveness, they need to say, “Please forgive me for hitting you,” without adding blame on the other child.

“I’m sorry but you made me do it” does not count.

And it doesn’t count when adults say it either. Repentance needs to needs to be a wholehearted without any blame on anyone else. To my dismay, I have found myself blaming my children when I am asking for their forgiveness. (I tend to do the same with my husband as well.)

  • I lost my temper because you did not do what I said.
  • If you would have obeyed me, than I would not have done such and such.
  • I would have been more patient if you didn’t whine at me.

Children who hear this type of false “repentance” from parents often end up feeling responsible not only for their own sins but their parents’ sins as well … until they are old enough to recognize the hypocrisy. Then they lose respect for parents who “confess” this way.

Frankly, I think it’s worse to give a false apology assigning blame to someone else than not to apologize at all because it is easier to pretend you have done the right thing and pat yourself on the back for being “righteous” or “humble” for saying you’re sorry.

Our behaviour as parents is obviously related to how our children behave but for us to blame our children for our own shortcomings is utterly despicable and it teaches children to blame their own sins on others as Adam did in the Garden.

  • “The woman, she made me do it.”
  • “My kids, they made me do it.”

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

 

Conclusion

As a paedobaptist and paedocommunionist, I believe our children are our brothers in Christ and we are commanded to confess our sins to one another.

If parents are not willing to repent of the sins they commit against their children, and ask for forgiveness from their children, they are teaching their children that it is OK for those in authority to sin with impunity.

When parents ask for forgiveness from their children for sinning against them, they are setting an example of humility and contrition that their children will take with them to eternity. And I am always so astonished at how children forgive so quickly and wholeheartedly. I think that must be part of what Jesus meant when He commanded adults to be like little children.