I have to write this down while the memory is still fresh. The wound is still open. The pain is still throbbing deep in my chest and the knot at the back of my throat.
Tonight we decided that we were going to go for a walk after dinner to an ice cream shop at the end of our street. The deal was that the kids would each eat their bites of dinner and if they did, they would get an ice cream. We usually do bites in number of how many years each child is. So for Jael, four bites of each food; for Elijah, two bites of each food. Jael ate all her bites [with a tiny little fight at the end], but Elijah refused. He cried, he acted stubborn, he punched bites of food of the fork, he simply would not budge. We tried compromising to one bite of each food…and to be completely transparent, at the end, we even tried getting him to eat just one bite of carrot and one bite of mashed potatoes and then he could have an ice cream. He could forego the two bite rule and could even skip the chicken. We simply just wanted him to eat.
He ate one bite of mashed potatoes and spit out a pile of chewed up carrot.
So we stuck to our guns. No ice cream for Elijah.
On our walk, he and Jael chit chatted about the trees, the airplanes, and we strolled nicely through the neighborhood. We got to the ice cream shop and ordered ice cream. Jael got double chocolate, Joseph got peanut butter and oreo, and I got the tastiest float I’ve ever had in my life: Oh My! Affogato, a delicious combination of Vietnamese Coffee ice cream, espresso, and Mexican Coke. When Elijah asked for ice cream, we calmy and gently told him he could not have dessert because he didn’t finish his dinner. He said, “Awww!” but we had no further fight.
It was when we took our treats outside that Elijah suddenly came to the realization that he did not have a cup.
“Where’s my strawberry?!?! WHERE’S MY STRAWBERRY?!?!”
He sobbed big, giant crocodile tears. He didn’t understand. He didn’t like the consequence. So I put my float in the stroller cup holder and he and I left Joseph and Jael at the shop. We walked a little ways down the road, and I stopped and crouched down by his stroller so we were eye to eye. He sobbed and sobbed. He made the most heart breaking, chin quivering faces I’ve ever seen. He was quite literally heart broken.
I tried to calm him. I shushed gently. I stroked his sweet face. I pet his sweaty hair. “I know, bud. I’m so sorry. This is the consequence.” And then I began to cry. I couldn’t hold it in. My heart was breaking at the genuine pain of my son. I know, it was just ice cream. But if you could have seen his face.
Oh his face.
And I just sat with him. In his hurt and lack of understanding. While he cried. And I attempted to bear the crushing feeling of witnessing my son in pain. He eventually calmed down. He started talking about the airplanes. Joseph and Jael met with us and we started the walk home. And I prayed, asking the Lord what I could have done better during dinner. How I could have better handled the situation. I begged the Lord to show me how to be a better parent.
And I heard him gently whisper, “This is how I feel when you are in pain from the consequences of sin.” And I realized there wasn’t anything better I could have done. Nothing I should have done. That sometimes as parents we simply have to witness our children bear the pain of the consequences of sin.
And that is what the Lord did for us. He sent Jesus and had to bear the pain of his son dying on a cross. Every day, he has to witness his children bearing the pain of sin. Bearing the pain of consequences. Bearing the pain of others’ sin. I witnessed tonight a small fraction of what pain he experiences when we go through the same thing.
I don’t have a take away from this. Just a mama pouring out her heart for her boy. Before Joseph and Jael joined us, in the quiet while Elijah and I stared up at the airplanes in the sky, I heard his little voice, “I sorry, mama. I sorry for screaming and yelling.” And those few words made me also realize the joy of repentance.