Last night I instituted a brief reign of terror. That isn’t exactly the appellation I’m looking for, since I don’t actually plan on killing anyone, and I’m not, you know, Stalin or some other evil dictator. I assure you, my motives are entirely pure and selfless. It’s for the good of the community, sniff.
What led to this seminal moment? Well, glad you asked. I was shuffling around the house, in the wake of the busy weekend, having both labored myself to clean and clean and clean, and observed Matt polishing the very furniture, and discovering bits of wrappers and crayons and Legos shoved into the nooks and crannies of every single place, frustrated beyond anything by not only the filth but by the careless, thoughtless laziness that characterizes so much of childhood, and then I slumped, tiredly, on a stool in my own catastrophe of a kitchen and observed the quite large sizes of the children careening back and forth from one game to another. These people are enormous, I thought. All of them can walk, and talk and feed themselves. Every single one can climb into the car and buckle up without assistance. Oh my word, I said to myself, I’ve been duped. Well, I whispered audibly, this is The End. No more. There are no babies and toddlers here, however tragic that fact may be. The Lord gives, in his perfect time, and he has seen fit to cause the children to grow up, and not provided any more infants, and so….the house Ought Not Look like babies live here.
I delivered this news, in longer form, to the children at 9 last night. My mind had already been made up, but I was going to be all calm and intentional, you know, the way good people are. But I toddled into the kitchen, past the hour at which I usually retire to my bed, to turn off lights, and discovered the shocking remains of an extravagance of smoothie making. “Oh No No” I shouted. “Everybody come here! People who can make smoothies,” I explained, through clenched teeth, “can rinse and sweep and make it so that an infestation of flies will not grow up during the night.” A confused look of un-understanding covered the expression of each child. They could hear words, but it seemed they couldn’t make out the meaning.
“As of now” I continued, as calmly as possible, “I’m not going to any more pick up any of your stuff. Every single time I see something on the floor or shoved somewhere or smeared around or anything, I’m going to call whoever has offended, and make them come clean it up. It’s going to be a pain for you,” I said, “because right now I only call any of you back to pick up your own stuff a quarter of the time.”
“What’s a quarter?” asked one wretched child who should very well know what a quarter is after us both spending verily what seemed like hours on just that very concept.
“So,” said another child, with a nasty smirk on his face, “one person could go get something out that belonged to someone else, and spread it everywhere, and the owner would have to come pick it up?” He smiled an uglier smile, if that was even possible.
“Oh no, sir,” I said, gripping the table with my whitening knuckles, “if I discover that you are sabotaging some sibling, and deliberately trying to get them in trouble, your life will become a complete and total misery to you. So help me,” I added, so that he knew I wasn’t kidding.
That’s the thing, as you go along parenting, at some point, the child, or children, decide that you must be kidding. You must be joking. You couldn’t possibly be serious. Only a fool would be saying the things that you’re saying. And if you’ve reached that point, through negligence and fatigue, it’s a very long slog to get back to the place of being taken seriously.
It’s exactly the place the Christian finds himself, or indeed herself, in relationship to God. The Christian careens along, selfishly, thoughtlessly, lazily, and then picks up the bible or listens to a sermon and practically the very first response is, “!?! I can’t even understand what this is saying. You must be joking.” And then elaborate subterfuges and theologies are manufactured to make somebody else guilty, to let yourself off the hook.
It’s exactly what Israel did, after receiving the law. They heard it, they shook their heads in horror, and then went and did what they were already planning to do. And God stored up his just anger against them for many many days.
If a child can’t obey the parent, the child will have a very difficult time obeying God. It’s hard to obey God even if you have learned to obey your parents. But if obedience isn’t even in your worldview, you have an even greater mountain to climb. I bet it’s one reason why the bible is so disbelieved, even by Christians. The average parent, over the course of a child’s life, empties out his own words of any meaning, by not insisting on, by not bringing about obedience. And so, when that person, who doesn’t know how to obey, comes to try to understand God, the idea that God might be serious is completely un-understandable. The spiritual ear is completely stopped up, like my own physical ear with this wretched cold.
So, I’ve repented of my sins. I will imbue my own words with meaning by following through. I will not sabotage my children through my own laziness, at least not for this morning.