Earlier this week one of my young ones got in trouble at school. I knew it by his hunched shoulders when he got in the car and the mumbled greeting that "It wasn't a good day today, Mom." When I asked him to elaborate, he told me he got in trouble twice, but that he couldn't remember why.
Because I am his Mom, I knew he wasn't telling me the whole truth. I tried to get him to talk to me about it, but he refused. He just kept insisting that he wasn't really sure what happened. When I told him that I planned to e-mail his teacher for clarification, he panicked. I dropped it for about an hour before giving him one more chance to come clean.
He literally motioned me into my closet and told me what I already knew, "Mom, I do remember what happened today that got me into trouble." Then he spilled the beans about some rambunctious 7 year old behavior that had gone too far. It was the type of story that would not have warranted any additional consequences at home--but for the fact that he didn't tell me the truth in the first place.
His eyes looked downward. He exhaled deeply. His shame was apparent. We were in a closet, for crying out loud. My compassion for him wanted to wrap him up. But my love for him needed to address the condition of his heart that got us into this position.
"Honey, you had several opportunities to tell me the truth and you chose not to. Do you understand that telling me you didn't remember was a lie?"
"Yes," he answered, "I was just afraid I'd get in more trouble."
Ugh. I could identify. Isn't that a familiar lie of the Enemy to keep us digging our own pits?
In this moment it was very clear that we were setting a precedent for a new stage of parenting. On my knees, eye-to-eye, we had a chat about the importance of honesty in relationships. I assured him that there was nothing he could ever do that would make his Daddy or me love him any less. I also informed him that he would ALWAYS get in more trouble for being dishonest and attempting to cover up sin than he would if he confessed it.
And then I wrapped my little boy up in a hug. He melted into my arms, exhausted.
There will be consequences for his lying to help ensure he learns this lesson. I gained something valuable from this experience too. For the couple of hours that passed before his admission there was a real rift in our intimacy. I knew he was hiding truth from me. I gathered that it was because of his fear and shame--but I realized that ultimately it felt like an issue of trust. He didn't know how I would respond.
I needed him to trust me with the truth. He needed to confess for the sake of our relationship. Even if there were uncomfortable consequences, we both had to believe that love will make all the rest OK.
I suddenly saw myself as the child in the closet--exhausted from my cover ups. I understood a bit more about why it is necessary for me to confess to my Father--to come clean, to trust that He will still love me even when my shameful actions are brought into the light. He already knows me inside out, of course. For my own sake I need to confess with my mouth. Our relationship needs to be built on truth and love.
My anger and disappointment in his sin was mixed with the overwhelming compassion for a beloved child when they are sincerely sorry and humble. I felt as if I had a glimpse into the heart of our Father.
I was reminded that consequences are not to be doled out merely in anger, but in love, intended to serve as lessons/reminders the next time we are tempted to stray. I reflected on the fact that true love has to balance the necessity of truth, delivered in a mound of grace. (Which can be hard when you are exasperated and frustrated at teaching some of the same lessons over and over.)
Being a parent is gut-wrenching...but when we slow down and pay attention, it can be an amazing love story that brings us from the shame of closet confessions to the glory of the grace-filled cross.