My kids and I like to play a game called “What if?”.
Kid: What if I brought home a pet snake without asking…
Me: You won’t. (Intimidating eye contact).
Kid: I know. But what if I did?
Me: I’d lock myself in my car until Dad came home. Then he’d take you and the snake to a more loving home…
Kid: Laughing. No, really.
Me: Okay. I’d lock myself in my car until Dad came home. Then he’d take the snake to a more loving home… and you’d have to face the music. There would be some consequence for not considering anyone else’s feelings, especially your mother’s. You’d probably get some privileges taken away for disobeying our rule about not bringing pets home…
Kid: What rule?
Me: The one I just made up. And I’d make you eat rattlesnake stew for the rest of the year…
Then, we spend the last few minutes of the game laughing and imagining before starting the next round…
Me: Okay, my turn. What if you lost your temper at school and punched another kid?
Kid: I won’t.
Me: I know. But what if you did….
I don’t know when we started this hilariously disturbing game, but it’s been going on for a while and I’ve decided it’s a keeper.
My kids need to know that we, as parents, are in for the long haul. They need to know that their mistakes won’t end their world – or ours.
They need to know that our love for them is indestructible, but their lives aren’t. They need to spend some time thinking about consequences, others, and their personal tendencies. We all need that, don’t we?
As a teacher, I often have to tell parents that their kid did something bad. In those conversations, most of my time and energy is spent getting them to accept it could even be possible…
“It’s just not like him to cheat/lie/hit/steal…”
“I can’t believe she would do such a thing…”
“But I don’t understand. He’s a good kid…”
I’m so sorry to break this to you, parents. But yes it is, believe it, and he’s also very bad. I’ll give you a few minutes of silence to sit with that before we move on.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9
Parenting isn’t so much about strategies, logic, or training as it is about knowing your kid.
I don’t completely trust my kids, and I tell them so. That’s why we didn’t leave matches on the table when they were little and why we keep close tabs on their phones and friends now.
I also tell them that I don’t completely trust myself. I’ve lived with me long enough to know I’m capable of anything and often too weak to resist temptation.
The point is, people aren’t inherently “good” or “bad”. We’re all saints with a past and sinners with a future… and we all need Jesus.
More so than their parents, kids are acutely aware of the worst of sinners within, and they’re often secretly troubled by the thoughts and temptations they yield:
What if I cheated on this test?
What if I stole this video game?
What if I got pregnant?
To be fair, parents can only go off what they know. If they never really want to learn, an image is born and raised instead of a child.
Sure, my parents love me. ‘Cause they don’t know me at all.
Maybe kids hide behind a pristine version of themselves because they think their parents could never deal with the truth.
No. Whatever we do, we can’t tell my parents. They’d die.
Being a kid is hard enough without having to worry about killing your parents.
I know my husband and I can’t possibly know everything about our kids. And I’m sure they hide things from us. I’m also not pretending to be prepared for every “What if” that life could bring, but we’re all learning through the game – and through life – that there is no “What if” that’s more powerful than love.
Even though the questions seem to be coming from a deeper place and feel more dangerous…
Kid: What if I did something so bad that you stopped loving me.
Me: You can’t.
Kid: I know. But what if I did.
Me: You. Can’t. You are going to do bad things. Things so bad you’ll barely be able to speak of them aloud. But loving you is part of who I am. I can’t separate myself from it. You can’t shock it out of me. Next question.
And in the game of humanity, the winners are those who are perfectly known and deeply loved.
What if everyone had a chance to play this game?
What if we stopped categorizing kids of all ages as “bad” or “good”. What if we saw each other as God does… either “dead” or “alive”, instead.
Folks who are alive in Christ are weary from the battle that rages within and need security first, then support and accountability.
Would I still be welcome at church if they knew the real me?
The dead need life-giving breath, a healing touch, and a truth that’s powerful enough to jump-start a heart.
What if it’s too late for me?
Both have questions, need answers, and are helpless without Jesus.
“…even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… “Ephesians 2:5
My soul sings Hallelujah because my kids are alive. They have a hope and a righteousness in Christ alone. By the grace of God…
But I’m also singing the blues ’cause parenting is scary and we’re in a world – and in bodies -where evil won’t quit fighting a war it’s already lost.
The world needs help. Parents are clueless and kids are suffering.
What if every parent took a huge spoonful of humility every morning to help them see their kids for who they really are?
What if we rolled doubles of grace for truth in our homes, schools, and streets so that more kids of all ages could feel known and wanted… whether dead or alive?
Wanna play a round?
Me: What if someone really knew you today? I mean really knew you. And loved you anyway?
You: They won’t
Me: But what if they did? Wouldn’t that be a game-changer?
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8