“Nana,” my youngest grandbean started, as he, his sister and I sat enjoying lunch together. He followed that with a question that stopped my fork mid-air. My mind flew back to the day before, to a matter I thought finished. But clearly, the little chap had a cog blocking one of his mental wheels.
After we’d made up their small beds in our den, I’d heard him and his sister roughhousing behind the closed door. I let it go for a bit, until rambunctious evolved into wild. Walking down the hall, I’d opened the door.
Chaotic clumps of bed linens and strewn stuffies littered both beds and floor. Standard protocol for pre-schoolers. Ezra’s stance made me curious, though. He posed close to the wall, his expression defensive; a clear statement of “I don’t want you to see what’s behind me.”
Two halves of a peanut, those children are. And despite their ages (4 and 6) they take turns at bossing. “Ezwa,” Lois commanded now, “Show Nana what you did.” Reluctantly, her little brother shifted to his right, revealing a broken electric outlet cover. (Tell me, how do you break a plug plate without damaging the wall surrounding it?) “It was a accident,” he whispered.
Of course it was. And I forgave him instantly. But I’m a little Nanny McPhee-ish, I suppose. Taking responsibility for one’s actions, starting young, matters. After reminding him that rough play is best done outside, I added that when our things get broken, it means they may need replacing, and replacing things means someone has to work to earn money to do that.
“But I have NO money,” he said.
“I understand,” I told him, “but when we break something that doesn’t belong to us, even accidentally, it’s important to apologize to the person it belongs to. Can you do that?”
“But, but… I don’t know the words,” he whispered.
Gampa came into the room just then. Ezra flew to him, wrapping both arms around his knees. When Rick picked him up, Ezra buried his face in that big soft shoulder and, with a little coaching, eeked out a slow confession. “I was playin’ too wuff, Gampa, and I bwoke yo house! I’m so-we!”
“I forgive you, Ezra,” the Preacher responded. Out came the sun again. I thought the matter was done. But the next day at lunch came the question that stopped my fork. “Nana, how does God discipline people?”
Something distracted him then, but he got me thinking.
Like any loving parent, God disciplines all His children—always in love. But discipline, which includes consequences, is not punishment. As we approach Easter, believers remember that by his death on the cross, the Son of God willingly paid the debt he did not owe by taking the punishment for the sin of the world. Today, God still longs to embrace anyone willing to accept Jesus’ sacrifice.
I recall Ezra. Repentant. Snuggled in his beloved grandfather’s arms. Laying his head on that great shoulder. When, empty-handed, heavy-hearted and sin-sick, we run to our Heavenly Father, he has the same response: Love. Acceptance. And forgiveness.