I went for a walk today with a rather cheerful eleven year old. This particular eleven year old is someone who needs extended amounts of my time to really feel loved. He needs not just quality time but quality AND quantity, in terms of time! He has endless tales to tell and abounding questions to ask and he does so with a skip in his step. It’s enviable, really.
Did I mention he has a sling around his neck and a cast up to his elbow? Well, he does. He broke his thumb skateboarding. But all of that is really beside the point.
As we were walking today and we were talking about the place that his bone broke I asked him if he felt broken. He shrugged with a smirk and bright blue eyes and upon exhaling breathed out, “Kinda.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the words that we use with our kids. The words we use when we tell them to play nice with others. Our choice of phrasing when we ask them to do something they don’t want to do. The adjectives we speak when we’re disciplining and correcting.
I knew a man who, when he was young, was forbidden to call those little bags of candy that you get from the corner store their actual name. In his town they were known as “Lucky Bags”. You know the ones. You drop 50 cents and you get a little bag of candies but without being sure what you’re actually going to get. His mom wouldn’t let him ask for a Lucky Bag. She insisted that they be called Providence Bags. Of course, no little kid wants to march into the corner store and ask for a providence bag! He thought that was dumb. But I commend his mama. Cause she was teaching him something important about what she believed. It wasn’t luck as to what candies you got. It was providence. (meaning: everything happening just as God planned)
I want to do this more with my kids. I want to speak to them in biblical language. Because I don’t just want them to be nice to other kids but I want them to love people, all people, because they’re made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 9:6). And I don’t just want them to do things for others because it’s what good kids do but I want them to serve others as our saviour came, not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
The more I think on this the more I realize the disservice that I’ve done them for not always teaching them the why’s. Not always explaining why we do things the way we do or to the biblical language because I fear it can cause a separation in our thinking and even in our very living. I don’t want my kids to be wondering why we hear these things at church on Sunday but then we don’t talk like that all week. We read these words in our bible but then Mommy never brings them up again. That kind of a thing!
I see this happening in practical ways for them. Like, they know they set the table because they’re told to but do they know that it’s because as followers of Christ we’re told to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23) and serve others and that whatever we do to the least of these we do unto Christ himself (Matthew 25:40)? I’m pretty sure when they set the table they’re not thinking that they’re setting it for the one who died for them. (You’d agree with me if you saw the haphazard way the forks are laid, alright?)
I want them to know that they’re not allowed to watch scary movies, not just because it will give them nightmares, but because we’re to fix our thoughts on things that are pure and lovely and holy (Philippians 4:8). I want them to know that we don’t play hours of video games on end or have seven pieces of dessert because I’m worried about their health and well being, but because we’re told to live self-controlled (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthinas 9:25). Do they know that? Or do they think I’m more concerned with studies on children and video games or foodie documentaries on how much sugar we ingest.
I long for them to know that when I say that they don’t need to be scared it’s because Jesus said, “Fear not!” (Isaiah 41:10) Not because I did. I want them to know that we’re not lucky and things don’t happen by chance and there is no random. But unfortunately those words end up in our vocabulary day after day.
I do want them to know of God’s providence and to know that His ruling hand is over all of creation (Psalm 22:28). I want them to know that He designed this place (Genesis 1:1) and He has a plan and He is sovereign over all.
So as we walked and talked about how it felt to be broken it only felt right that we talk about it in biblical words. How we are broken, all of us. (Isaiah 56:2, Mark 2:17) And how Jesus came to make us new. (Colossians 3:9-10) And how my boy now has a little glimmer of insight into that greater than I do because I’ve never had anything actually broken. But he has and it’s being made new. He’s learning that it doesn’t happen overnight, this being made new, and nor does it with Jesus. (Romans 6:4) It’s a process of sanctification. A gradual process of being made whole by being conformed to the image of Jesus. (Psalm 51)
My boy can now see this picture a little differently because of the language we used. He knows that it hurts to be broken and it sure isn’t simple to be made new. It doesn’t happen quick like and it’s not without pain and trial and suffering cause that cast has already lost its cool and on day 2 is already downright annoying!
But His thumb is better in a cast because it’s safe there. Protected. Being set right. His life is better too, with Jesus, because it’s safe, protected and He’s being set right. Slowly. Sometimes painfully. But so much better will the outcome be than just leaving his thumb to hurt and ache and never again know what it’s like to be aligned how it was made to be aligned.
We’re made to be aligned to Jesus. (Psalm 100:2-3) I want them to hear it each day in how I talk. I want the words and concepts in scripture to not be confusing when they read it because we’ve talked it out in life. I want them to go to the word and understand because we’ve made these little analogies in our days.
I think our children can benefit from this. I think I can benefit from it, too.