I was just able to get the baby to sleep and my toddler was watching her morning shows, so, I seized the opportunity to take a quick shower. I came out to my toddler not wearing a diaper and exclaiming she made a big mess. “Uh huh”, I thought, “she peed on the floor somewhere”. I told her I would be there in a minute and I finished brushing my teeth. I did not expect to come into the living room to a find powder covering my living room… it smelled like tacos… “What did you do”, I asked, to which her reply was simply, “Oh no… big, big mess”. I saw that the internet had cut out, which shut off her show and so instead of being glued to the TV for ten minutes, she took advantage of mommy’s distraction to find taco seasoning and dust as much of the living room and herself as she could cover. Not only that, but she peed on it, rendering my ability to simply vacuum up said dust, moot. Straight to the tub she went, and I began to clean up the mess.
This little girl KNOWS she is not supposed to take her diaper off unless we’re ready for a new one and she KNOWS, she is not supposed to climb on the counter and steal things. Now, of course, I’m peeved at her, internally rolling my eyes thinking “WHYYYY!”, but by God’s grace, I’m learning to turn these opportunities into what I’m calling, “Gospel Moments”. I’ve been reading “Parenting” by Paul Tripp and one of his main themes is that moments when our children are sinful are moments of grace because God is allowing us to see our child’s sin and seize the opportunity to show our children their blindness and point them to himself. So, as I’m on my hands and knees cleaning another mess, and questioning, “how am I going to use this opportunity to talk to my daughter about sin and point her to the cross?” God nudges me, “I cleaned up your mess by the cross”.
CLEANING UP THE MESS
How often do our kids make messes? All the time! And what tends to be their response? “It’s ok, I’ll clean it.”. What I specifically I tend to hear is, “No! Mom! I do it!”. And my response back to her is 9 times out of 10. “Nope, I will clean it, thank you”. Why is this my response? Because I know that I will do a thorough job, that’s why. My daughter is limited in her ability to clean up her own messes. She does not understand the concept of germs nor does she have to concentration to do it thoroughly nor the eyes to see big ol’ stains left on the carpet and the insects that I can feel sniffing out her crumbs as we speak!
So how does this relate back to God? How often do we sin and we try to clean it up ourselves? We try to clean up our messes. We strive to do better and be better, but we are unable to do the job thoroughly enough to get that stain of sin out. How like a father God is. He knew our inability and knew He himself had to clean up our mess. And so, in his grace, He came and got the job done, thoroughly, on the cross, putting sin to death. I am the child that made the big mess and God lovingly came and cleaned up.
GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
God used this opportunity to remind me of my own need of Him and so, I can return to my little girl, clean her up and her mess and point her back to the One who cleaned her ultimate mess. Was her problem that she covered my living room in taco seasoning? No. That’s just the behavior that stemmed from her root problem; the problem of sin. So, in my discussion with her, I don’t focus primarily on the behavior, but what was underneath that.
I’d like to say that I sat my child down and she humbly repented saying “yes, momma. I did wrong. I see my sin and I hate it and need Jesus to help me do better”, but I would be lying if I did and if I didn’t tell you the rest of the story, I would be leaving you to come to the conclusion that everything went great after that… but sin is deep and twisted and has marred the hearts of our kids and us.
I picked my daughter out of the tub, got her dressed and sat her on the couch. “We’re going to talk about this mess. What did you do in the living room?”, “I peed”, was her response. “Yep, you’re right. And what else did you do”. “Big mess on couch. Big mess on floor. Big mess on table”. “That’s right. And was that a no, no?”. No response. “Moriah, was it a no, no for you to do those things?”. First, my child likes to try to distract. Ask for toys. Says she hurts. Says she needs something. Any type of smoke screen to get the attention away from the situation at hand and hope it will just go away. But as I persist to keep her focused, this is where the screaming, kicking and yelling begins. All I’m desiring for her to do is confess what she did was wrong. That’s it. And in the process, I can see her sin nature fighting tooth and nail. She absolutely will not admit she was wrong. Will not just say one word, “yes” so then I can tell her of her need for a Savior and move past the moment. But she fights and prolongs the process ten-fold.
HOW WE ARE WITH GOD
And again, I will say, do we not do the same thing to God? He calls us to confession and yet we will not just utter the simple words? In 1 John 1:9 we are told: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. God is faithful and just and yet we fight and prolong the pain. You see, we are just like our children, but as adults often we just get better at hiding our sin. Our kids wear their emotions on their sleeves. They don’t care who sees them throwing their tantrums. We, on the other hand, bury deep. It’s the same problem of sin, it’s just not as on display. But God, in his grace, brings it to light. He as our father loves us too much to let our sins remain hidden, and he calls us to confession so He can purge us of unrighteousness. He calls us to do the same for our children so they can see their need for Him. We constantly make a mess and God, through Jesus on the cross, paid the ultimate price to clean up. God points me to my own need of Him and repeatedly humbles me again and again so that I see, I have no right to be angered and fly off the handle with my child in the midst of her messes. No, just as God has grace on me, so I must extend grace to my child. I must lovingly clean up her mess again and again.
Parenting is a lifelong process. We must use these opportunities to point our children back to the cross. It’s easy to get discouraged when we’ve told our children for the 100th time in a day that it’s not okay to spit on the floor or hit your sister or scream at mommy and daddy, but just remember how many times your father has been gracious with you and repeats the same to you for the 100th time. So, take advantage of these moments. Don’t see them as an interruption, but as graceful, gospel moments.
– Michaela Stolarz