It was one of those “mystery pain” nights. My seven year old came down because his “side was hurting.” It conveniently began to be uncomfortable just after we turned out the lights for bed. But I was up for some late night chatter, so I offered to lie in the floor next to his bed until it felt better.
Sallie and I had been watching a movie about Alexander the Great when he came down stairs, so he asked me what it was about. I explained that it was about a man who tried to and nearly succeeded in conquering the whole world.
He paused for a moment and said that is why he never wanted to be President; he was afraid having that much power would be too tempting for him. It was a sweet moment of realizing how deeply his young mind thought about life and how seriously (at least when he’s thinking) he takes his sin nature.
From there he rambled for a while about a cartoon where a main character was corrupted by power and the lessons he learned in first grade about the checks and balances in government. It was a delight and highly entertaining to lie in the floor and listen to his mind connect the dots between various sources of information he had been exposed to.
As a side note, I highly recommend the occasional late night hang out with your children. Whether we’re camping or waiting out a phantom side pain (I’m still not convinced), rarely do I leave without hearing a side of my boys’ hearts that I would not get during the day.
Somewhere in the midst of his chatter he said, “You know, Papa, you sin less than anyone I know,” and then went on to say why he agreed with me instead of something he heard at school.
That moment was very convicting to me. Earlier that evening we had tried to learn the game of Monopoly for the first time with the participation of my five year old son. Being the perfectionist that I am, I only know one way to play a game – “the right way.” Evidently my wife believes that the “author’s original intent” does not apply to the rule book of board games, so there was much for them to unlearn from their initial exposure to Monopoly with her the day before.
While both boys had fun, I cannot say that patience would be the word that best describes my “coaching” of the fundamentals of Monopoly. I would not volunteer the footage of that home movie as a how to video on family game night.
My son’s assessment of me made my “acceptable sharpness” look different to me. It showed me how much of a standard bearer I am for my sons. At this age (I know it will change), they assume almost everything I do is right and everything that bothers me is wrong. My “emotional climate” is their reality.
When they get bigger, one significant gauge for how much they will question their faith is how accurate my example was to the teaching of Scripture and how effectively my example can be followed in the real world. Hearing his sincere words about how he views me, makes me question how effective saying, “Only Jesus is perfect, so don’t base your faith on me,“ will be.
As he moves into adulthood he will be able to separate my example from Jesus, but in the formative years of pre-teen and teen-dom it seems likely that my example (as his father) will be his vision of Jesus. Until he can transition from the concrete example of his earthly father to the intangible God-as-Spirit and God-as-Word revealed in Scripture, I’m it.
That gave weight to something I have said many times, “We teach values more by our emotions than by our words.” So in that evening I confessed to my son that I had not even handled our Monopoly game well and that I’d been too impatient. I don’t think he believed me. In that moment God used him to teach me a truth I needed to learn from the innocent love of a child, “Love covers a multitude of sins (I Pet 4:8).”