29 February 2016 by romanin
At around 9:00pm today, we were ending a long day by putting on our coats to head home from Alpha course. The course is held at a local church less than a 5 minute drive away. The dinner served at Alpha today was pretty American, which ironically, the kids don’t usually eat or like; they probably didn’t eat as much as they could have. But as a treat, each of them had a plastic bag with some banana bread in it. In the throng of people getting ready to leave, Abigail our one-year-old was crying, Ethan our three-year-old was playing around on a college student’s skateboard and was not listening, and Nathaniel our five-year-old was complaining that he was hungry and wanted to eat his banana bread. That’s how this all started.
Lydia told Nathaniel no and Nathaniel began to scream and throw a tantrum. I understand that it was a long day, but I have a firm policy not to tolerate tantrums. So I spoke firmly to him and told him that when we got home he would be disciplined. Once we got everyone in the car, Nathaniel did the natural thing: worry about what his discipline would look like when he got home. It was raining hard this evening, and as we got home we all cooled down, even though it was a mere 5 minute’s drive, and understanding that Nathaniel had a long day that had started with church at 9:00am, I thought that Nathaniel agonizing about his punishment the ride home may have been punishment enough, so I made him an offer; I told him I’d not discipline him if he would run with me in the rain.
His face lit up. He rushed out of the car, and we stood next to each other at the edge of the garage. I said “Ready, set, GO!” and we both ran and screamed up and down the driveway. This changed everyone’s mood, even Abigail’s. Ethan eventually joined in, and by the time we got inside, all of us boys were plenty wet. It was my favorite moment of the day!
I knew that Nathaniel appreciated that; we had made a great memory. But I wanted his heart to understand something deeper in it. Before bed I decided to read him Luke 15:11-32; the parable of the lost son. In this story from the Bible, Jesus describes a father of two sons. The youngest of the two basically wishes his father dead and wants his money. The father gives him the money he wants and he runs away from home and his father’s authority spending the money as he wishes. Eventually, after he spends all of his money and a famine hits, the boy is starving and decides to beg his father for a job, believing that his father would never accept him as a son again. However, upon his return, his father runs to him, embraces him, and celebrates the return of his lost son. The father (God) treats his prodigal son (any one of us) with extreme love and compassion.
As I read through, I asked Nathaniel about how each person reacted and how the father should act when the son returned home. Nathaniel promptly said that the son should be disciplined. When I told him that the father instead threw a party, Nathaniel said “He’s like you!” Without any prompting, he immediately made the connection, and I was able to give this 5-year-old a live picture of God’s mercy. Just as the father in the story didn’t discipline his son, but rather threw a party, I had run and played with Nathaniel in the rain instead of disciplining him. I don’t have many moments like this, but when I have them, I cherish them and thank God.