After the podcast about being intentional about bedtime, this story once again came to mind and I wanted to share it so you could see how that ideal played out, once upon a time! Joy was 7 1/2 and as I read this story again, I wanted to take her into my lap, again. But now she is too big. So we just had a morning cup of tea before the day blew into place. Here is our story!
It seemed like such a good idea to let each of my children have a friend over to celebrate New Year's Eve in our home. We provided an abundance of delicious junk food, time-consuming board games, and favorite movies. It was an evening of fun and frenzy as our crowd of young people filled the house with their antics and energy.
The next day, however, with the last guest out the door, little Joy seemed out of sorts. A growing frown clouded her face. I tried to connect with her, but our conversations were short and stunted, interrupted by phone calls, children wanting to eat, a neighborhood dog attacking our own dog, who was in heat—the typical interesting and demanding minutes of life that occupy a family each day.
That evening after dinner the older children wanted to watch a video that would have been enjoyable to me as well. But as we began the show, I realized the subject matter would be of little interest to Joy, who had come up to crawl into my lap.
The Lord seemed to gently push my heart. Joy was growing up so quickly, and I realized I wanted to treasure such moments, which I knew from experience would pass in just a few years. So I suggested that she and I go down to her room, snuggle up on her bed, and watch a Shirley Temple movie called Curly Top.
"Oh, Mommy!" she responded. "Let's do it!"
I hooked up our small TV-VCR on the desk chair next to her bed. We squeezed in together among the pillows on her twin bed to talk, draw pictures, and watch this show, which never failed to delight her. But even before the video began, she began to fairly bubble over with things to say to me. And then I began to understand the reason for her daylong frown.
"Mommy, I feel bad about some things that happened with Ann last night. I've been worrying about it all day, but I didn't want the other kids to hear what I did. I haven't been able to think about anything else."
She proceeded to tell me that she and her friend had taken all the money out of her bank. They had hidden it in a backpack and gone out to the back of our three-acre yard to have an adventure. And somehow, as they counted the money and played with it, they had lost two of the collector coins that were precious to her.
I opened my mouth to speak, but Joy continued, her face very serious.
"I know you've told me not to take my bank down from my closet and not to play with money. But my friend wanted me to do it, and I just didn't want to tell her no!"
When I didn't answer, Joy added pensively, "It seems like when I'm with a friend, I'm always tempted to do what I know I'm not supposed to do."
"Why do you think you feel that way?"
"—Cause I want people to like me, and I'm afraid if Isay no, they won't like me. But then I feel terrible! I knew I couldn't feel okay until I was with you again."
I took a deep breath. This was one of those God-designed situations I always hoped would come my way. Now I prayed that the Lord would make me sensitive to use this teachable moment to guide my precious child on the path of truth.
I opened Joy's Bible and showed her the verse in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." For the next few minutes I explained again what sin is and why Christ had to come to pay the penalty for our sin. I shared with her my own desire to please people and told about a similar incident in Sarah's life and what negative consequences had ensued. I reminded her that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) but that God in his grace forgives us when we repent and turn back to him.
Though Joy had heard this explained to her many times, she was beginning to understand what this meant to her personally because of the awareness she had in her own heart of how easily she could be tempted to go against her conscience.
"Joy," I said, "I think we need to pray together to God. I would like you to tell him what you did that was wrong. That's what confession means. Then let's thank him that he loves you and will always forgive you for anything you ever do. Then I will pray and thank him too."
So we prayed. "Everything's okay now, right?" Joy said. "Right." "You're not mad at me?" "No, I'm happy you did the right thing." And Joy was happy too. "I think that's what it meant when Pilgrim had to get that burden off his back by laying it at the cross," she pronounced. "Remember when we read that in our Dangerous Journey book?' I just wanted you to help me get this burden off my back, Mom!"
The rest of the evening, Joy unloaded all sorts of dreams, desires, and confessions that burden the heart of a young girl. We talked and talked. We prayed together for God's forgiveness, and I hugged her and kissed her and told her I would always love her, "no matter what!" Finally we snuggled down under her covers and turned on the VCR.
(She didn't even seem to notice that I dozed through most of the movie!)
This story was first told in The Ministry of Motherhood. You can find it here!