Do you ever remember getting caught doing something you weren’t supposed to do as a child? Maybe you didn’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, but maybe you got caught doing something else more or less important. I certainly remember a few vivid times. One time that stands out for me was when I was a little girl and crept downstairs to the kitchen in the early morning before anyone was awake. I devoured a bowl of strawberries soaking in sugary syrup. My father asked who had eaten them. Over and over again, I lied. He promptly walked me into the nearest bathroom and lifted me up so I could see myself in the mirror. It was like a horror movie. I had strawberry juice all over my shirt! The rest was history. I had gotten stone cold busted. Let’s just say that I understood the embarrassment of getting caught and the gravity of telling a lie from that day forward.
Having children, especially teenagers, has taught me a lot. I’ve gleaned from what my parents and other wise parents have taught me to pass along to them, but most importantly, I’ve been able to use the Word to help guide me through situations where maybe they have gotten caught doing something they weren’t supposed to do or have been found not doing something they were instructed to do. I’ve tried to follow through with Dr. James Dobson’s wise advice, which goes something like this: “There must be a swift consequence for every willful act of disobedience.” At times, of course, this is easier said than done.
Through this parenting journey, I’m finding out that not only do my children’s actions teach me something about them, but also about myself. For example, I have found myself sometimes overreacting in anger or maybe not reacting out of sheer exhaustion. Certainly, when we try to do things in our own strength, it can be overwhelming. I’ve been learning the importance on leaning and depending totally on Him—even and especially when it comes to those nearest to my heart.
Another thing that I’ve been able to learn from my experiences with my children is that just as God’s grace and mercy covers me when I do something wrong, He is able to cover them and help me guide them through their mistakes. Jesus didn’t condemn those caught in wrongdoings. Remember the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well? Instead, he instructed others to repent and sin no more. While getting caught doing something wrong can be humiliating, frightening, and shameful, it can be the best thing that has ever happened to us if we are able to learn from our mistakes. For instance, after I dealt with the consequence of lying and getting caught with the strawberry juice on my shirt, my dad never mentioned it again. I had been forgiven. It was like it never happened. I learned the power of love and forgiveness through that small experience as a child.
If and when we are caught in a bad thought, word or deed, we need to stop and think before we try to justify our wrongdoing. The more we justify, the more we glorify the wrong. The more we glorify the wrongdoing, the bigger the wrong gets and the less we are able to recognize how wrong we are. Just think about someone that you know that has gotten caught doing wrong. They either justify the wrong or repent and learn from it. (I guess there are those who say they’re sorry but don’t really mean it. However, in my opinion, those are silently justifying their wrong.)
Sometimes my children are like mirrors, reflecting both the best and worst in me. They’ve helped to realize that my best response to their behavior, whether good or bad, is to respond as Jesus would. He always responded in love and not condemnation. Over and over again, I’ve realized how thankful I am to have Jesus. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Whether we’re dealing with our children, our own sins, or those of others, we have to remember the love of Jesus and how He responded to sin. There are consequences to sin, but they are always rooted in love. My pastor reminded me of the verses telling us that the Lord disciplines those He loves. The following verses from Hebrews 12 are lengthy but important.
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
So, even though consequences of sin may be painful, there is a reward for being disciplined by God when we submit our will to His.
One final note is that when we catch others in wrongdoing, we have to be careful how we respond. Being pious and self-righteous is dangerous! Not only can it pull others away from Christ, but it can also be self-destructive. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
We are all God’s children, in need of His love, direction, wisdom, and forgiveness. When we clearly see our own inadequacies and need for the Savior, we can find it much easier to love those who are caught in a fault.
God’s blessings to you now and always,