Sometimes, in parenting, we forget how many of the things we try to train into our children, or discipline out of them, are surface issues. It's so hard to stop and think, "what is the heart issue here?" when your 5 year old has re-painted the newly painted wall with craft paint. Or your 7 year old whines like a toddler. Or your 9year old is in everyone's business or stalks his older sisters when there is no "business" going on.
The other night was a night of discovery for me. Our three boys fluctuated between Larry, Mo and Curly and a Zulu warrior, Hitler and a combo of Groucho Marx and the strong man at the circus, minus the leopard leotard (don't those words look fun together:) I'd sat down on the couch to watch a show after putting the boys to bed when the 7 year old came upstairs complaining of a headache. I gave him a remedy and he went back downstairs. Two minutes later the 9 year old, not wanting to miss out, came with the same complaint. I had him drink some water and sent him back down stairs. Two minutes after that the 7 year old returned, still complaining of a headache and that the 5 year old won't stop talking. I sent the 7 year old to sleep on the couch in the game room. Next came the 5 year old...are you still with me? It gets better..."Why isn't 7 year old in bed?" (for him to torture further...he'd left that part out). It went on and on. Headache boy fell asleep quickly but the fun continued with 9 year old bringing news flashes about hurricane 5 year old and the damage being done on the island of bedroom. 5 year old got in trouble several times. As I headed downstairs yet again I noted the look on my 9 year old's face. I realized something else was going on here. Yes the 5 year old was doing some "stuff", but I needed to address the heart of my 9 year old.
What I saw in my 9 year olds face was pleasure. He was rejoicing in his "enemy's" bad fortune. He was secretly enjoying the knowledge that his 5 year old brother was getting disciplined. You see, before he came to live with us he'd been terribly bullied at school (as opposed to the good kind of bullying?) and now he is the one with a bit more power and control over the fate of the 5 year old. If I had simply dealt with offender (who fell asleep anyway while waiting to be tried and sentenced) I would have missed helping the heart of my 9 year old. He's been through years of some very tough stuff and not only has he put up walls but those walls are covered with thorns and thistles. By addressing his heart and working toward a solution with him and helping him learn to acknowledge his weaknesses he learns that the walls needn't be so high and with proper tending those thorns and thistles produce beautiful roses in the spring and that the beauty of the roses helps to soften the sting of the thorns to himself and others.
Truly children help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. They remind us to look into our own hearts and allow our Father to break down our walls and cut back the thorns and thistles we have used in our lives as protection or to justify sinful behavior. I thank God for these opportunities (not always right at that moment) and for the privilege of helping my young ones along their path to the Christ.