I (Leslie) had intentions of writing about Briggs turning 7 with words describing how sweet, loving, and wonderful our first-born son is. And he is all of those things that I wanted to say. But after a very long day on the day marking his birth, I was also reminded that he is a sinner in need of a Savior.
When I picked him up from school Thursday, he was so excited about the treats I had brought him for his special "Birthday in a Bag" snack to school. I had filled it with a Spider man cupcake, a balloon on a stick, and some animal bracelets. He was so excited, until Max asked to look at the green ones. He refused to share and then started begging me to make Max take a nap when we got home because he wanted to "relax and watch TV alone." I informed him that if he wanted to be alone he was welcome to go in his room and close the door, since that is his space, but that I would not forbid Max to go in the playroom. Of course, he did not want to do that because there is no TV in his room. Briggs kept on complaining until Max got very upset and started crying, "Briggs is not my brother anymore." His little feelings were so hurt that I think he meant, "Briggs does not want to be my brother because he is being so mean to me." I told Briggs that he was hurting Max's feelings and that all day Max asks when we can go get him from school because he misses him during the day. Briggs continued on saying that it was his birthday, not ours, and he wanted to watch TV alone. So when we got home, I gave him one more chance to be kind, give Max a chance to play with him nicely, and share. Briggs refused and even became more determined to get his way. So, I gave him what he asked for (sort of). I sent him to his room to be alone. For nearly an hour, I would not let him come out of his room. He cried, he screamed, he stomped on the floor. He was so upset, I thought he was going to give himself an asthma attack. As much as I wanted to go in and make him calm down, I refrained. Finally, I knew his stubborn will was broken and I went in to see if he was ready to be with the rest of the family. He was very contrite and repentant. We talked about how God created us to live together in families and we have to share our space. I told him that it is okay to want to be alone sometimes, but that it is not okay to hurt others in the process. We talked about sinful hearts and forgiveness. We talked about our Redeemer who loves us through our rebellion and brings us back into fellowship with Himself through our repentance.
But, for the rest of the day, I dwelled on the fact that I was so disappointed that his birthday had turned out so badly. I just wanted him to have a good day, without any problems or concerns. And then God changed my perspective. He reminded me that, this very day, I had said that my goals for my son are not for him to be happy and successful with an easy life free from difficulty. My goals for him are for him to love and follow Christ with his whole being and to glorify Him with his life. This "bad day" was in fact an opportunity to point him to the cross. To help him understand his sinfulness and his need for redemption, for forgiveness, for Jesus. Although I do this frequently in disciplining him, for some reason this time was different for me. I have to admit, usually when I discipline him, I am angry. I know you are not supposed to let your emotions take over and never "spank" out of anger, but honestly, I am nearly always angry when I have to discipline him. It is something that I have struggled with for a while ("why else would I want to spank him unless I was mad at him?" was my honest feeling.) I feel like the worst social worker in the world! I could tell other people what to do, but when it came to my own child, I struggled to do it. I needed a Savior too.
That day, God changed my heart and genuinely gave me a different perspective. I was not angry with Briggs. My heart grieved for him. I even cried because of the sadness I felt for the way he was acting. But I also saw it as a "good thing"- an opportunity that I was given to disciple my son. Although I knew that this is what disciplining should be, after all, they are basically the same word, I finally really "got it." It was not about punishment, as it has been many times in the past, but rather about teaching. Discipling. Sharing Christ. I am so glad that God forgave me for so many times of disciplining the wrong way and for teaching me His way.
We are all just sinners in need of a Savior. I don't want to miss His grace, or for my children to either.
"But God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Heb. 12:10b-11