The arrival of my second born son marked a behavioral shift in my first. He’s as delightful and hysterical as ever, and we love him immensely, but he acts out in ways I didn’t anticipate. Ways that have surprised me. I've been a little brokenhearted over it, and more recently perplexed as his behavior at times causes me to feel as if I have "lost" him: my compliant, sweet natured, affectionate, eager to please, gentle baby boy. I have wrestled with feelings of responsibility, grappled with how to weather these changes, and lamented the loss of the "good old days" when we ran and giggled at the pool and ate popsicles in lawn chairs. Those days were light on conflict and heavy on fun.
NONE ARE GOOD…
Recently after sharing my frustration with a friend through text messages over an "incident" at Mother's morning out, she responded, "It's so hard to watch them lose their innocence."
And it struck me that although intellectually I would assent to the doctrine of original sin, I had been operating according to a false working theology. "Innocence."
I looked at my 8 week old baby boy and then at his two-and-a-half year old brother, both of them with their precious squishy cherub cheeks, dubbed by southern culture to be "angel babies," and I saw, as Robert Murray McCheyne observed, the seed of every possible evil within them, just as it is in me.
NOT EVEN MY TODDLER…
Although outwardly he has grown in stature and mind and is capable of far more kinds of disobedience than he once was, not much has actually changed within my child at all. He, like me, like you, was not born "a good boy" but as one of Adam's race, an enemy of God, spiritually dead and in great need of a savior (Rom 3:9-18; Eph 2:1).
While I do believe that the child we lost in the womb is safe with his or her maker even now because of what I know of God's mercy and based on select passages of scripture, God would have every right, if he so chose, to condemn every member of the human race. But he doesn't. He provides us with Christ.
NOT EVEN ME…
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I will share with you in earnest that I have agonized over the behavioral changes in my oldest, and at times even feared what he may one day be capable of. But to long for the days before his sin was visible as it is now is not only foolish of me, but dangerous for him. If we lived all of our days in peace, if he never saw the effect of his sin on another, what would he have to repent of? Without sorrow over the knowledge of his sin, how could he turn in faith to Jesus. During the time I worked in college ministry, my least favorite students to meet with were the ones who didn't see their sin, because it was almost impossible to convince them of their need for a savior.
I am convicted of my desire to raise little law keepers. Law keepers look better on the outside. Law keepers cause people to stop you in the grocery store and tell you what a good job you're doing. Law keepers get A plusses and good reports at Preschool and Mother's Morning Out. Law keepers make their parents look good. But when I remember the truth of God's word about our shared condition without Christ, the desire of my heart changes.
In his mercy, as one of my favorite hymns decrees, “all the fitness he requires is to feel our need of him. Not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call.” The greatest goal we should have for our kids is not that they would be sinless, but they would know that they are sinful, and that that knowledge would cause them to throw themselves at the feet of their sinless Savior.
I long to raise a child who rather than saying, "Thank you God that I am not like those other kids!" cries tears of contrition from his time out chair over the actions of his members against his neighbor and against his God. Were there no occasion for me to correct, there would be no occasion for my child to see his sin, and no occasion for him to become convinced his great need for Christ's atoning work. I pray that in time, his sorrow over sin would lead him to saving faith in Jesus.
Any good we see in our children is the grace of God. We should not be surprised when we see glimpses of their depravity more and more as they age. That is simply confirmation of what we know to be true of their fallen state. No, we should not be surprised. We should be prepared. Ready for them to fail. Ready to give them the good news of the gospel.
But the prospect of raising the tax collector crying “God have mercy on me a sinner!” doesn’t feel as good as raising the little Pharisee we might join in saying “Whew, thank goodness he’s not like so-and-so.” I need the conviction and power of the spirit to surrender myself to the means God may use to bring my children to saving faith in Christ.
Oh that my children would be raised by a woman who cares more about their hearts than their behavior. Oh that I would desire broken spirits and a contrite hearts in my children more than white washed tombs who reflect well on their mother. Oh that God would use the occasion of their sin, as he did with each of their parents, to draw them to himself. Oh that he would allow us to be the ones who show them what repentance looks like. And would that begin with the confession of my idols of appearance and peace.