During lunch, our boys had an “incident.” After Edric and I had excused ourselves from the table, we left the two younger boys to finish what was left of their curry meal. Fifteen minutes later, both of them came into our bedroom and looked very guilty. Edan was on the verge of tears and Titus was already crying. What was going on?
Edric calmed them down and asked them to explain what happened. They wanted to confess that they had a food fight. It took several minutes to extract this but they admitted to it.
Apparently, they playfully started chucking rice and bits of beef curry across the table to hit each other. This resulted in a big mess. When Elijah saw it, he encouraged them to tell us what they had done. At first, they were afraid because they didn’t want to get spankings for not following eating rules. But they wanted to be honest (according to Edan).
I watched the two of them stand side-by-side facing Edric. Edan had one hand to his eyes, trying to wipe the tears away. Titus was red with snot coming down his nose. Edric handled the situation and got to the bottom of it all.
Honestly, I kind of think that food fighting is pretty cool! The mess part wasn’t really a big deal, except that we have eating rules. One of these rules is, eat everything on your plate. The boys ended up throwing whatever was left on their plates. They knew they were wrong.
However, since they told the truth, Edric extended grace to them. But Edric said that he was concerned about Titus. He explained to me that Edan was very repentant but Titus was more like “yey!” no spanking.
I offered to talk to Titus. Titus was all smiles as he came into our bedroom. I sat him on the bed beside me and I looked into his eyes to let him know that we were about to have a serious conversation. But I kept my tone gentle. We talked about what it means to really love Jesus. I also explained to him that Jesus wants to bless us, protect us, and take care of us. And I told him that there is also the Devil who wants us to do things like disobey and lie. He doesn’t like us at all and he wants to hurt us and destroy us. Titus asked me questions about this and I explained to him more about what the Devil is like.
I used the example of eating too much candy to let him realize that the Devil always wants to harm us. “Remember how mommy and daddy tell you not to eat too much candy because it’s not healthy? But the Devil will tell you things like, ‘It’s okay to eat candy. It’s yummy. You really like it!’ Just eat it anyway when no one is looking. If you listen to him and keep disobeying mommy and daddy what do you think will happen?”
Titus replied, “All my teeth will fall out!”
“Well, you may get cavities and the Devil will be so happy because he got to hurt you. But mommy and daddy, we don’t want you to get hurt. And that’s how Jesus is. Jesus doesn’t want you to get hurt, either. That’s why you need to learn to obey. And if you love Jesus, you will obey him.”
Titus listened intently and understood what I was trying to say. (I asked him a couple of questions just to check if he really got what I was talking about.) Afterwards, I affirmed him and told him that he was a good son. He really is a wonderful son, but he needs to be trained and guided, just like his siblings.
My purpose for having one-on-one time with Titus was to help him understand that the rules we make are not meant to make his life less fun or deprive him of something good. We want what is best for him. We love him and we are concerned about his heart. But he needs to guard his heart from the Evil One. And he needs to guard his heart so that he always loves Jesus.
When I talk to my kids like this I am reminded that the battle for our children’s hearts is so real, so serious, so spiritual in nature. Each one of them is developing a set of values and principles that will define and determine their choices. And many times it will take some parenting detective work to investigate what is going on inside them. With Titus, I wasn’t as concerned about the food flinging as I was about the possibility that he has not internalized that obedience is for his greater good.
Since he is just 4 years old, we will need many more dialogues together to talk about this truth. Dialogued are really important. The more we interact and communicate with our children, the easier it is to identify the “weeds” in their hearts. Weeds can grow anytime, and they can grow undetected and root themselves deeply into our children’s hearts if we don’t catch them early.
This is one reason why I am a big believer in homeschooling. Homeschooling gives Edric and I numerous, daily encounters with our children. We get to ask then questions, draw them out, and uncover wrong thinking, unbiblical world-views, secret sins, unhealthy patterns, deceptions, or fears. (Oh and pray like heck for them.)
Edric and I don’t always know what to do but the guiding principle for us has been to keep turning our children’s hearts back to Jesus. Jesus will be the one to take our children from immaturity to maturity, from foolishness to wisdom, from obedience out of fear to obedience out of love, from desiring self-will to desiring God’s will.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)