Despite being tired, our plans were to have six 10 year old little boys over to spend the night for my sons birthday party. They had a great night out at Nascar Speedpark, tried to stay up half the night (despite my many attempts to get them to sleep), and arose at 6:06am, right about the time I was dreaming about a herd of elephants barreling through my house, only to realize that it was not a dream, but the crew of testosterone that had been camping out upstairs.
Apparently their lack of sleep caused them to have a breakdown in common sense, and instead of shooting basketballs in the driveway at 7am, they decided to go ding-dong-ditchin'. You know what that is - run through a yard....ring a doorbell...run away as fast as you can. Ummmmm... yeah.
They had a clean get away at the first house, but they were caught off guard at the second house when a woman slung her front door open, shaking her fist at them, yelling, and telling them she had a gun. Yes, a gun. Was she going to shoot a 10 year old boy? Guess her common sense was not working that well either that early in the morning, but that whole event was unfolding at the exact moment that my husband appeared on the scene, after I had sent him looking for the mischievous bunch.
After a pretty harsh scolding, phone calls to parents, and an empty house earlier than expected, I sat down to talk to my little man, who was embarrassed, remorseful, regretful and a bit confused at the turn of events that had taken place - all before 7:00am, I might add again.
I began to ask him some simple questions, such as why had he not stayed in the yard like I told them to? Why had he not stood up to the friend who was encouraging him to break the rules? Why had he not just told me when someone was doing something they shouldnt be, instead of getting involved himself? Why had he not used the common sense to know that if you ring someones doorbell at daybreak, they might actually come to the door, and they probably will not be happy?!
His little blue eyes filled with crocodile tears as he shrugged his slumped over shoulders and sobbed. He said one of the boys was making fun of him for not playing along, then since the majority was headed down the street, he felt like he had to as well. He had been faced with a decision, and he simply made the wrong choice.
Despite the fact that I had encountered much more excitement than anticipated on this dreary Saturday morning, of which I had hoped to be catching up on my sleep, it turned out to be a great opportunity for some life lessons.
Life lessons such as: the importance of making good decisions, and considering the consequences of ones actions; the importance of being a good influence on others, by being a good example; the importance of reaching out for help, when we are unable to handle a situation ourselves; and the importance of being considerate of other people....and their need to sleep in on the weekends.
But most importantly, we talked about the importance of standing up for what we know is right, even when other people are not - even if it means getting ridiculed - even if means not being the most popular dude around.
Now I know we are talking about a silly door-bell-ringing episode today - but what about tomorrow, or next year, three years from now ......when someone tries to get him to smoke cigarettes, steal, do drugs, drink alcohol, vandalize, skip school, have sex, etc?
Is it ever too early to start teaching them right from wrong? I dont think so. On the other hand, is it ever too late? Never. In fact, I think God puts these little parenting challenges in front of us to give us opportunities to teach, and learn.
Romans 8:28 says that all things can be used to the glory of God for those called according to His purpose. I think that sometimes we tend to only call on that verse when a crisis occurs, a difficult hardship, or a serious mistake was made in our past; when we are trying to make sense of a senseless situation.
But this weekend, God showed me how that verse can be relevant every day, in every situation - to help us see how big circumstances, and little circumstances, can bring Him glory.
God showed us how to turn a silly, unfortunate situation, into an opportunity that opened the door to talk to my son about Godly character traits, and making good choices. And in talking with the Christian parents of the other boys, I was able to see how they also were teaching these character traits to their sons, and taking this opportunity to help them learn to make good choices, as well as determining how to make their punishment fit the crime.
My husband and I decided that little Michael will not be playing the Wii or his PSP (his favorite two things in the world besides a football) for several weeks as a result of his involvement with the ding-dong-ditchin' incident. ( I kind of want to chuckle each time I say that). However, I know that every time he feels a craving to play a video game, he will remember our little talk.
It would be so much easier to just overlook his lack of judgement, forgive him for his mistake, and forget about the situation altogether - after all, nobody was hurt, and it was just a door bell ...but would that really help him remember the lessons that God can teach him through this experience? I think not.
Would you agree that parenting is not always fun, easy, or even enjoyable? If you are like me, you might even agree that parenting can be tiring, frustrating, infuriating, and even sad. But, it is worth every ounce of energy put forth, because God CALLS us to be the parent.
In the past 15 years that I have been a mommy, I have discovered that giving birth does not make one a parent - parenting makes you a parent.
Sacrifice, love, sweat, tears and joy make you a parent. Unconditional love makes you a parent. Compassion and patience makes you a parent.
Parenting when parenting is not fun, makes you a parent.
Parenting with a heart commitment, not a time commitment, makes you a parent.
Parenting is a pattern of failures and let downs, but an even stronger pattern of faith as we seek Gods forgiveness for our own mess-ups, and forgive our children for theirs.
My heart breaks as I consider so many older kids in our community who were never taught the importance of making good decisions, of standing up for right from wrong, or even knowing the difference between right and wrong.
In fact, in some situations, I think the parents just gave up on parenting altogether, when the parenting got hard, and as a result, their children are having to suffer the consequences of not having anyone teaching them lessons of life in the big and small circumstances that they find themselves in. Sadly as a result, they end up walking down a spiraling road of destruction, and year after year, it seems that I can watch them get deeper and deeper into a life of sin. Now sometimes, all the Godly parenting in the world may not keep a child from sin, but if we persevere and do our best through His strength and power, then we are still pleasing God and honoring our call to be a parent.
The truth is that sometimes it takes months, even years, to really see the fruits of your efforts in parenting - trust me, my mom can probably attest to that fact when it comes to me! But my parents didnt give up on me when I gave them a hard time growing up, and I dont intend to do that with my kids either.
My children are the absolute most important things in my life, and the deepest, most desperate longing of my heart is to help prepare them emotionally and spiritually to handle the many situations that they will soon face, whether it is as silly as door-bell-ringing, or as important as a life-altering choice.
Friends, I have no idea why God laid it on my heart to write this message. Actually, it seems a little deep, considering it started out with a funny door bell reference. But God always knows who needs to hear what, when, and I believe someone needs to hear this message this week.
If you are struggling with parenting a young child, a teenager, or even a young adult, who is constantly putting your parenting skills to the test, I just want to encourage you to call out to God today, maybe even cry, stomp your feet, and shake your fists in the air...but whatever you do, do not give up on them.
Believe that God sees your struggles. He sees you, and your child. He loves you and your child. He has great plans for you, and your child. But in order for those plans to ever become a reality in both of your lives, God needs you to be the parent right now that He has called you to be. He is calling you to do the kind of parenting that might be hard, but that will have an impact greater than you could ever imagine.
Ask God for the strength to get through another day, the patience to handle whatever comes next, and the love to deal with the situation in a way that would not only glorify Him, but help your child begin to see how their situations can bring them closer to God, and make them more like Him in the long run.
Lesson learnin' is not always easy, for kids, or for adults, but every situation in life is an opportunity for learning, and holds the privilege of seeing God at work.
Galatians 6:9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong