Son, you get the Lunchable. Would you like some ice cream too?
Those words cut across every grain of my don’t-back-down, actions-have-consequences, hold-the-line parental instinct.
And then some.
On the table was an “Uploaded Pizza Lunchable.” Despite the absence of whole food health, these had somehow weasled their way as a field trip lunch tradition. But when one son had pitched such a fit about a reasonable bit of homework, his Lunchable was off the table. And when he refused my warnings, ice cream for dessert was too.
Because of what, in the education world, we call “Escalation” and “Red Zone” and “Level 5.” Because of his kicking and shouting and chair-banging. You might call it a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum. At home we call it raging and losing control or, how I classed this one: out-of-your-head mad.
Mind over matter, I kept telling myself. Tune it out. Don’t engage. Ignore the beast and wait for the boy. Keep on.
But the self-talk was to no avail. I managed to finish all of two sentences of a work report in the half-hour my boy lay writhing on the floor. I couldn’t tune out the beast and my mind couldn’t hurdle this matter. And I couldn’t just keep on.
So- better late than never-I thought, and dropped to my knees to pray.
Mrs. Business Relents
…Have Mercy. Help me. Help the boy. Amen. Then a still small voice said, Relent, even as a loud, mad voice wore on.
The Lunchable’s yours, Bud. You can take it on your field trip. And the loud, mad voice was stilled.
What did you say? it said.
You get your Lunchable back I said.
Then, the silencer: Wanna have a bowl of ice cream with me?
Kids need to know parents mean business, child-rearing gurus say. As if I’m not Mrs. Business herself. Give a consequence, set your face like flint and stick to it-I generally subscribe to that. Relenting went against every sound disciplinary principle I knew.
Kindness Leads To Repentance
Because our Father in heaven, the Prima Parent and Best of dads, does not deal with us according as our sins deserve nor repay us according to our iniquities. He relents. Sometimes, even before we repent. Romans 2:4 tells us one reason why. (This sermon by Derek Carlsen explains the context of Romans 2 well.)
But between warnings in verses 3 and 5 we read,
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
The Lord does not turn a blind eye to sin or make nothing of it. It is there and it is real and it is offensive to him, Carlsen says.
But God is patient and his kindness waits for us to repent. That is why sinners aren’t consumed. When God proclaimed his name to Moses way back in Exodus 34:5-7, he opened with “The LORD, The LORD, a God merciful and gracious.” The reason judgment hasn’t crushed us all is because of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience. God waits for us to repent and come to Him in his Beloved Son.
Charles Spurgeon said it so well,
GOD is often exceedingly good to those who are utterly unworthy of such treatment…The goodness of God to a man of evil life is not intended to encourage him to continue in his sin, but it is meant to woo and win him away from it. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon #2857)
But kindness isn’t always received this way. It doesn’t always woo sinners away from sin.
But God blessed us- the boy and me- this time and it did. My restoring the Lunchable and scooping the ice cream did woo Gabe from his selfish fit. He worked a glorious repentance from a tiny act of kindness. He turned from writhing on the floor to homework at the table. And based on the writing on the bathroom mirror that night, Gabe had turned from sin to God.
But yes, Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death. Yes- be diligent to discipline him. And yes, mercy does triumph over judgment and yes, we are to ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
It’s all there lumped together and it’s all true. And we do fail and we won’t always do discipline right. We’ll cave when we should wait and hold the line when we should release. It’s only with divine guidance that we can know when to relent and when to keep the consequences in place and sit tight. Only with the wisdom from above that we will apply these truths aright.
Thankfully, it just so happens that we serve a kind, kind Father who gives wisdom generously and without finding fault to everyone who asks.
Gabe and I are living proof.
*Gabe’s reference to “see you and love you” in the photo at the top rejoiced this mom’s heart. He was connecting to 1 John 4:20, which I had written on their bathroom mirror a week earlier.