She looked straight into my eyes….
Summer time, when the days and evenings are warm. It is a time for various activities, adventures and fun…But there are some that are questionable, and even dangerous…especially for a young 9 year old girl.
Children at that tender age are gullible and naive. That does not make them bad or stupid. Simply they think they are invincible. They do not have enough experience to make sound value judgments. They invariably think they know everything, which in itself is a dangerous illusion that can have serious and undesirable results.
On this particular summer morning, while talking to my daughter about her involvement in a questionable activity the previous day, she looked straight into my eyes and lied. This actually surprised me because had she told the truth, even though I disagreed with her action; yes, I would have been disappointed but certainly not angry or vengeful.
Maybe it was the fact that she did not want to disappoint us that motivated her, or perhaps it was the embarrassment about being caught in a lie. At this point, it did not matter; the fact is she lied.
Once confronted that her attempt at deception was obvious and that it did not work; tears began to well up in her eyes. She knew the hammer was about to fall and she was in serious trouble…the question remained in her mind what was going to happen next, and what would be the result of her actions.
To simply dismiss the lie as a “phase” she was going through was not an option.
I could sense she was sorry for what she did, not because she had been caught, but because she truly understood the emotional damage she did to our relationship…our trust in her had been betrayed. She knew that trusting her again would be difficult, and in her mind probably impossible. This bothered her greatly, one could see the anxiety and stress in her body language.
Her mind circled back to the question of what I was going to do…so I asked her if she should be punished…the tearful reply, as she lowered her eyes, came yes. Pausing for a moment, I asked what she thought would be an appropriate form of punishment, and what she thought was fair…surprisingly she came up with a number of options; all of which were more severe than I would have actually required.
This situation came about, as I was getting ready to go to work. I told her she was not to go out at all, or to play with her friends. She was to stay at home and help her mom clean house, and make cookies later that day…see smiled excitedly because she loved making cookies. I further explained that after dinner we would sit down and talk about her punishment. Her eyes widened as I explained that I wanted her to think about her actions and the results she faced as she went throughout her day. No I was not trying to be cruel or sadistic, but rather had a plan in mind, as you will soon read.
Dinner was good; the cookies for desert were awesome! Now was the time to sit down with our daughter and resolve her dilemma…and to determine a fair form of punishment.
I spent a little time explaining to her how damaging and dangerous lies can be…gave several illustrations of people that died because they believed in lies; and of powerful nations that believed and were destroyed because of them. Lies are powerful and have frightening results.
I told her I knew she was sorry, and she was; that I knew she would not lie to me again…(to my knowledge, she never did).
I wanted her to understand that as her parents we were also the guardians of her well being and safety. Because of her disobedience I had every right, and a responsibility to administer punishment…she tearfully acknowledged the truth and consequences that she faced.
Here is what I decided to do. I began to explain to her that we talked about the problem enough; it was time to talk about the solution. I wanted her to understand a very important principle so I began by telling her about “grace”, that is unmerited and undeserved pardon and forgiveness. The greatest example of these is the love of the Father for us. Even to the point where God allowed His one and only special and unique Son, Jesus, to be put to death in our stead, even though we deserved it…all because we like Eve chose to believe the lie that Satan told…you don’t need God in your life, you can figure things out for yourself.
That is exactly what our daughter was trying to do, trying to work around us to get her way even though the result would be disastrous. Then I talked to her about “compassion”; God sees us for what we are and loves us in spite of it all. Then we talked about “understanding” that she needed to come to a mature realization what she had done, why she had done it, and the consequences of the end result.
Then we talked about “mercy”…overlooking what she had done in spite of the fact she did not deserve it, or in any way did she, nor could she earn it.
Her eyes widened, still not exactly sure what I was going to do. I told her I was going to extend to her grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness…I was not going to hold what she had done against her in any way; or punish her for her poor decision and actions. I would never refer back to this incident to use it against her in the future. Just as God when He forgives us, He does it completely…or as someone in the past said, He drops it into the deepest part of the sea of His remembrance, never, ever to bring it up again.
I asked her to remember this lesson as she continued her journey through life. For eventually someone, maybe one of her sisters will lie to her causing great pain and distress. I asked that she remember what she had learned about grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. That is, she should consider applying it to others, whether they deserve it or not.
With that said, she smiled and gave me a big hug and happily walked away…only time would tell if she really got the message…and for us today as well, only time will tell if we as mature adults really get the message to extend the love of Christ to others as they offend us.