When our boys were small, there were only two ways to get spanked in our house. First, was for lying. Didn’t matter what you lied about, that violation of trust received a spanking…and then we would deal separately with whatever had been lied about. Second, a spanking would occur for blatant, deliberate disobedience.
Our boys were typical little boys, and they thoroughly tested both of these rules. After each time, I would pull them into my lap and let them cry into my chest until they had calmed down. It was in this teachable moment that we talked about what had brought them to this point and how to avoid it in the future. I would also repeat one of two phrases that I borrowed from Jesus: “If you love me, follow my directions.” or “Hear my voice and follow my directions.” The first comes from John 14:15 and the second from John 10:27:
If you love me, you will keep my commands.
My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.
You always hope your children get the lessons you try to teach them, but these verses ended up being applied in an unexpected way:
For our second Halloween in West Virginia, we walked around the neighboring side-street houses with other families that lived near us. Our younger son was too little to walk the entire distance, so we pulled him in a wagon. Our older son was Kindergarten-age, and he walked about a block ahead of us with some of the neighbor’s kids and friends who were in upper elementary school. The kids were told to stay within eye-sight of the parents. The weather was pleasant and it was a fun, relaxing stroll around the area.
At the very end of the designated Trick-or-Treat time, we started to head back home. Our group of kids was about two blocks ahead of us, but we could still see each other. At an empty side-road intersection, the group of kids went left, toward home…except for one, who looked left and then right and then left again. Even from our vantage point, you could see our son’s mind spinning the options. To the left, was home and the end of the night…but to the right were more houses with their porch lights on and other kids still getting candy. So after weighing his options, he booked it to the right.
I didn’t mind his choice. He was still within eye-sight, but I could see something that he couldn’t, because of the rolling hill the street was on. There was a car, moving carefully up the road, but heading toward my son. He was safely off the side of the road, running on the grass, but he was solely focused on getting more candy. Depending on which house he targeted first, I was afraid he would dart out into the street.
I took a deep breath, barked out his name and gave him a loud, one-word direction: “STOP”. He immediately stopped in his tracks. I gave the wagon handle to my wife and ran to our son. I got there just as the car slowly rolled by him. He was crying because he didn’t understand why I yelled and likely thought he was in trouble. The house he had targeted was on his side of the street and turned out to be the home of one of my co-workers. She told me that she had heard him crying and was worried that he thought they were out of candy. She called to him, saying, “It’s ok little boy, we still have candy. You can come get some.” Through his choked back tears, he gave this response: “No. My daddy said stop.”
It didn’t hit me until the next day that although I could see him – he couldn’t see me. While he was focused on something good, something he could have, as soon as he heard my voice…he knew he had to trust me and do what I said. Even if it didn’t make sense to him in the moment. Even if it meant missing out on something he wanted.
How well do we know our Savior’s voice?
Enough to recognize it above all the noise of life?
Do we trust Him enough to do what He says?