So I posted the following conversation onto my Facebook wall a few days ago - a conversation with my son - and it got me thinking some more...
We had a rough morning. Sometimes two-year-old boys just have a way of defying every request, testing every boundary, and never slowing down when you're already tired and cranky. I felt like an angry mom, scolding left and right, and lacking any patience to go through the ideal calm-and-in-control-mother protocol. After nap time, when we were both in better moods, I asked him (in a tone that invited an honest response):
"Ian, am I scary?"
To my surprise, he responded, "No. You a nice lady...Ian a naughty big boy."
As one who obsesses a little much over the psychological implications of things and who thinks semantics are a big deal, this comment makes my brain immediately think of "self-fulfilling prophecy." I think, Wait. I don't want Ian to label himself as a naughty boy. I need to emphasize that he's a "good boy" so that he will rise to that standard....and so on.
But as the words, "No, sweetheart, you're a good boy," left my mouth, I had a little revelation inside...my son is actually "naughty." We all are.
My child needs a Savior. Just like I do. Sure, I'm not perpetually awful (though I can be so awful), and Ian's actually a really darling kid, but my son was born into sin, has a knack built into him for sinning, and any of our goodness in comparison to God's perfection is like trash. Sin isn't simply the cumulation of all our wrong-doings, it's the spiritual disease we contract at birth.
"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind."-- Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
His sin merits spiritual death just like mine...and yours...
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."-- Romans 6:23 (NLT)
What a sobering truth. But there's the hopeful second half of that verse - we can have eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord! And unlike death, which is earned by sin, there's actually nothing we can do to earn eternal life - it's a free gift.
As a Christ-follower, it is my incredible responsibility to share this life-altering truth with my children. I hope they will strive to be good, but when they inevitably fail, I pray they will be humble enough to see their faults and have the faith to accept God's free gift of eternal life because of Christ's redeeming work! Then they can receive the power that God offers to help make us truly good!
So now, while I'm still not going to label my child "bad," I'm trying to balance his exploration of "naughty versus good" by telling my son that, yes, we are actually bad sometimes, but we can ask God to help us be good because he wants to help us. It's a start for a two-year-old.
I can't fool my children into thinking I'm good and perfect. I make mistakes. I fail. Sometimes I cry. They'll know I'm weak. Sometimes I am ashamedly angry. Sometimes I apologize to my toddler because I've just plain messed up. It would be foolish of me to try to set the absolute standard of goodness in our home, or try to force good-ness into my children by scolding out the bad (or putting it into time-out). Bad is a part of our fabric. My job is to point my children to Christ - the only one who can displace our ugliness and clothe us in robes of righteousness.
I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness...-- Isaiah 61:10 (NLT)
In the midst of mankind's political/psychological/ethical struggle to understand and define good and evil, God has already defined it in His Word and he offers us astonishing grace to step out of our innate sin-disease and be "good" - to be clean - and only because He is good. He can cover us in His righteousness and perfection through Jesus Christ.