One More Time

My nearly-four-year-old has developed a habit of late. The scenario goes like this: My son does something obnoxious/out of bounds/against the rules, like hitting me in the forehead with a large foam sword. I tell him to stop. My son proceeds to lock eyes with me and do it one more time. Unpleasant consequences follow.

If you’re shocked and can scarcely believe that a small child so fresh from heaven could behave in such a way, you’ve likely 1) never had children, and 2) never been within 800 yards of a Toys-R-Us at Christmastime. My son is a delightful boy and a blessing from God, but there’s something about this stage of life…

My wife and I try to be patient, but then there’s those ‘Play-doh smashed into the newly-washed carpet’ days. Or his highly selective hearing. Or his attempts at deception: “No, I didn’t put toys in my bed… DON’T CHECK, DADDY!” 

It’s a certain defiance, a testing of boundaries, to see where he stands and what he can get away with. It’s figuring out precisely where his authority ends and ours begins. It feels good to have power, and he wonders how much he holds (not very much, it turns out. When you’re three you can even be ordered to go to the bathroom).

Isn’t this just like us and God? I just know there have been times in my life when God said to Himself, “Of course. You just had to do it one more time, didn’t you? Did you not know what would happen next?”

And of course, we do know. We know there are consequences to sin. We know that God’s authority is endless and ours is an illusion. We know that any power we hold is granted by God and only there to serve His purposes, not ours.

Yet then the old man rises up, that little spark of defiance—that voice from my distant past that whispers, Come on, one little bite won’t hurt! We’re willfully disobedient, and thank the Lord that we have a God Who is extravagantly patient.

My son is a smart kid, and many times he follows his misbehavior with his secret weapon: he cries, runs to wrap his arms around me, and says I love you, Daddy, and I’m sorry.

I recognize my own behavior once again. God, forgive me. Father, I love you and I’m sorry. And like my son when his repentance is genuine, I am met with love and forgiveness. I may lack the grace to keep battling against my own selfish nature, but God has grace in abundance, enough to go around.

The fight is a daily one, to put to death my flesh and to follow Christ instead. Like my son, I slip up, and I must face the consequences to my actions—the results that follow our choices, despite (or perhaps more accurately, because of) a father who loves us.

Because ultimately, God wants the best for us, just as I do for my son. This does not mean either one of us can do what we like without consequence. Hebrews 12:6 reads, “the Lord disciplines those he loves,” and in Revelation 3:19 the Lord states “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.”

My son and I can both know there will be consequences to our choices. We can also know that a father is waiting to greet us with love and patience, to forgive us, and to help us make better decisions next time. I continue to glimpse more of God’s love for me through my love for my own son. May I perpetually look to Him as the model for fatherhood.

And whatever it is God wills me to put aside, may I do my very best not to do it, not even one more time.