It was one of those days that had me breathing deep over the simmering chicken soup. The kids had arrived home all hungry and hyper and quick to sizzle. Henrik had been fussy too and my patience with noise and discontent was running low. Two emotional meltdowns within the breadth of an hour, supper to be made, and a frustrating repetition of poopy diapers from a baby with an already raw bum. Dustin was off to a ballgame with a friend, our honey harvest of this evening being delayed on account of overcast skies (which make bees downright testy and sting-y). We missed a parents meeting at the kid’s school, because we were supposed to be happily extracting honey and hadn’t lined up childcare. The whole evening was a tangle.
Somewhere in there, lollipops were stolen. I had no idea of it. We have a little pail full of leftover birthday candies way up high in a kitchen cabinet, and now and then we take it down and pass it around after dinner. I don’t inventory the contents, so the theft, which was stealth considering the height of the cabinet and the shortness of the thief, would have gone undetected.
After homework and play and chores and reading, when everyone was pajama-ed and brushed, we settled into our places to hear the Word. Me in the faded blue wing chair that is as old as I am, with my feet propped up on a round ottoman that doesn’t match but is comfortable. The children all sprawled across the rug while the crickets tuned their singing legs for the moonlight sonata. Henrik sucked down his bottle of milk, and I flipped through the worn little Bible and prayed for a bit of guidance.
We were working through Proverbs, but tonight felt like a different sort of night, for a different group of words to speak. Romans, chapter thirteen, some verses on “putting on Christ”. Well, that sounded about right, considering all the irritation and quarreling and general malcontent that we’d been wearing that day. Time to change clothes.
“Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk in decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.” Romans 13:11-14
I had no idea how uncomfortable one of the listeners was becoming, so then I made it all the worse. I thought of a story that would help them see what it’s like to “make a plan to satisfy the fleshly desires”, so I had them imagine that they were in class when their teacher opened her desk drawer and got out a piece of candy and ate it. I talked about how much they’d want a piece too, and how they might even wonder how they could get one.
I asked them to imagine that they stayed in the class after everyone had gone to recess, and how they snuck over to the teacher’s desk and stole a piece of candy, eating it quickly with delight, and how they’d run back out to the playground so the teacher would never know. I told them to imagine their teacher smiling at them from across the playground, completely unaware that they’d stolen from her. I talked about how that momentary pleasure would begin to sour in their stomach as they realized that they stole, they acted the part of the thief.
We talked about the other way to be rotten too; from the inside out. How Jesus called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” because their deeds were all good and clean, but their hearts were a mess of pride and corruption. I told them that the only way to be really whole, really good, was to invite God to change their hearts, to get a hold of them right at the core, to put on Christ, not good behavior for it’s own sake, but Christ.
We prayed together and the one who had a twisting gut of guilt didn’t care to speak. Kisses goodnight and I saw one of them head back through the kitchen and just figured they were using the restroom before bed. All of a sudden the child was before me sobbing and pressing a whole bouquet of lollipops into my hands with a tearful confession: “I stole this from you!”
I was amazed. Not only at the violent sobbing, but at which child had done the deed. I took the handful of lollipops and wrapped my arms around those quaking shoulders.
“I forgive you.” More sobbing. “Would you like to ask God’s forgiveness too?”
“Forgive me, Jesus,” came the shaky words.
“You know He has forgiven you. It is done. Thank you for confessing; I’m very proud of you.” The storm cleared from the child’s face and there shone a glad smile of absolution.
“I don’t feel guilty anymore.”
Set free, load lifted, wrong made right, sin washed clean. And one mama just stunned in her blue faded wingback chair. Marveling at my Father who directs in the smallest nudges, in the quietest of whispers, to read a particular clump of words in Romans, on a particular evening, when a particular child was choosing a wrong way that needed righted. And the crickets keep singing on this holy, holy night.