The other day I was on a walk with my children and my sisters. We came to a creek that was close to the trail and took off our shoes and waded around a little. Before I knew it, Connor decided to jump in the creek with his shoes on. His shoes were the good tennis shoes he promised to only wear at church and school. I was angry at his disregard for his shoes. I was sad because we were just at the beginning of the walk, and I knew wet shoes would not be very comfortable. I told him that he had to either wear his shoes or carry them for the rest of the walk.
He tried wearing them, but quickly gave up. Then he tried carrying them while riding a Ripstick, which didn’t seem very safe to me. He asked my sister to carry them; she refused. She felt that he should have to deal with the consequences of his choice to get them wet in the first place. He asked me to carry them. I told him that I couldn’t because I was carrying his baby sister. But about half way through the walk, someone else was holding the baby. Connor saw his opportunity and asked again if I would carry his shoes. “Sure!” I said. So I carried his shoes until his little sister needed me again. Then I told him that I couldn’t carry them, and he took them back.
Then he asked my other sister to carry his shoes. She also told him no. “I guess I don’t have that much compassion,” she said to me. She also felt he should bear the consequence and carry his shoes. To my sister, if I carried his shoes for a minute, then I gave in, was inconsistent in my parenting and failed to carry out the punishment.
This is where the gospel has really messed up my parenting. I carried Connor’s shoes, not out of pity, not out of guilt, not to stop his whining, but to show him grace. I think our main job as parents is to show our kids who God is. I want them to know that God has rules, but that he also gives grace. When I told my sister that, she said that was true but sometimes we have to still have to suffer the consequences of the sinful choices that we make. But the mystery is that not every sin carries the same consequence for every person. Nor does a person always deal with those consequences for the rest of their lives. Sometimes God gives them a way out or a respite….also known as grace.
What I know is that God has given me grace; he has carried my shoes. I have been tempted by the immediate gratification of sin. The fun of playing in it and splashing around. While it’s fun for a moment, I walk away with wet clingy clothes and soggy shoes that squeak with every step. My sin makes the walk more difficult and uncomfortable. Nothing feels the way God meant it to be; everything is wet. I often regret choosing short-term feel-good over the long-term comfort of wisdom.
But when Christ came, he came to carry my shoes and give me clean clothes. Not out of pity, not out of guilt, not because of my complaints, not because I was trying hard, but because of his great love for me. When he died on the cross, he took all of my sin and the eternal consequence on himself. He carried my shoes. He not only carried my shoes, but he put on my sopping wet clothes and gave me his dry clothes, his robes of righteousness that give me a right standing before God.
I think that’s where my parenting falls short. I couldn’t go all the way and trade clothes with Connor that day, but I could carry his shoes for a little while. I am so grateful to Jesus that he carries my shoes and bears the consequence of my sin.
Oddly enough, God’s grace does not make me want to jump back into sin and do it some more. I have grown in wisdom and know that I shouldn’t wade in the creek in my best Sunday shoes. It doesn’t seem like good parenting for God to do that and not make me suffer all the consequences of all my sin. But strangely, God’s amazing grace moves me to obedience that comes from gratitude and faith, not obedience that comes from fear. I hope someday Connor will understand that too.
The song: “Carried to the Table” by Leeland