I’m learning that I can correct behavior verbally without needing a “consequence” after every sin my child makes. I’m glad God doesn’t correct me every time I sin. How many sins do you commit each day? How many times are you selfish or lazy or sinfully angry? And how many times can you point to your life and say, “That was discipline from the Lord.” I see a huge gap between times I sin (lots) and times I see God’s discipline (not so many, even in retrospect).
Still, God says in his word that he faithfully disciplines his children. Perhaps I don’t see God’s correction, or perhaps he refrains from correcting every sinful infraction. I know that in the past I’ve missed the connection between my sin and my circumstances. Am I willing to let those natural consequences be missed by my children, or am I quick to point them out each and every time my children get out of line? As I told Laurel this morning, a messy bedroom is a pretty big consequence to being lazy [convicting myself in the process, even if I did have to explain consequence and result]. Nevertheless, I’m interested in the idea that mercy sometimes waits for patterns of behavior to emerge before stepping in to correct. Slow to speak, quick to hear, slow to wrath.
Another way that I’ve been experimenting with mercy is dealing over-generously with truth telling. Awhile back, David had helped himself to some M&Ms in a dish. When I asked him what he was eating, he paused and finally said “M&Ms.” Since I have been focussing on truth telling, I reminded him that he is supposed to ask for candy, not simply help himself.
My approach was motivated by this Scripture,
Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
I think the important principle is that, as they are developing patterns of behavior like telling the truth, they feel the difference when they hide sin, or when they are truthful and repentant. (Truth is an important step in repentance.) Since I have a great desire that they learn to be truthful, I have deliberately made the consequences far different when they tell the truth. If they get in trouble the same whether they tell the truth or not (the little child brain reasons), it is more advantageous to lie. I want to make it more advantageous to tell the truth. When they are older, perhaps I will scale back the mercy.
How are you learning to be merciful, as our Father in heaven is also merciful?