If you are the owner of a preschooler, you may also be the owner of a Beginner’s Bible. My 5 year-old, Daniel has always been drawn to stories with battles and unlikely hero’s; his favorite being David and Goliath. My 4 year-old, Levi has always claimed the “no-no fruit” as his favorite. He has always found it hard to believe that Adam and Eve made such a “bad choice”.
It wasn’t too long ago that we were reading this story together and he said to me, “Mommy, if God told me not to eat the no-no fruit, I would never ever eat it. I wouldn’t even go near it.”
“Oh, Levi,” I said to him, “We eat the no-no fruit every single day.”
He looked at me with wide eyes and exclaimed, “We do? You mean, YOU do?”
“Uh-Oh, I’ve done it now!” I thought to myself, waiting for a deep magnified voice to announce, “Stay tuned, up next we will hear confessions from a stay-at-home mom…”
“Yes.” I finally told him. “I do.”
He sat patiently waiting for more information with a hint of disbelief in his eye.
“I am very selfish.” I told him. “Sometimes I say things that aren’t nice and I hurt people’s feelings and I don’t always say I’m sorry. Sometimes I scold you because I’m tired, not because you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes I choose not to put God first. And all those things are very, very bad.”
He stared at me with a blank expression, and then as if someone had flipped a switch, his eyes twinkled and a huge smile appeared on his face.
“That’s okay.” He said to me. “I still love you and I still think you’re a good mommy.”
My heart fluttered, and as I took in the warm embrace of my son, I knew I was also taking in the warm embrace of my Heavenly Father. I couldn’t help but think that the only thing better than the unconditional love of our children is the unconditional love of God, our Father. This is the verse that came to my mind. I hope it encourages you the way it has me.
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I know that the older my children get, the more they will see my faults. Not just my faults as a mother, but my faults as a person. But, I hope that as my children get older they will also see that the Spirit of the Lord lives within me. That I am not afraid to admit my sins and that I am not ashamed to proclaim the love of our Risen Savoir!
I wrote the article you just read almost 8 years ago. My boys are now 12 and 13 years old. A lot has changed in the past 8 years. But, one thing that has remained the same is the need to confess my sins to my children. They need to know I sin; they need to know I repent, and they need to know I’m forgiven.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve read several different articles about what makes a strong family unit or characteristics of a healthy family. One reoccurring theme is the importance of parents being open with their children about their own sinful nature.
One article that sticks out in my mind was about the increasing number of children who grow up in Christian families, but leave the church body when they move out of their parent’s house. The author claimed that one reason children have a negative view of their parent’s faith is because their parents present themselves as perfect…yet they teach that we are all sinners. These parents point out their children’s sin, but never their own.
Do I think we should share all the skeletons in our closets with our children? Absolutely not. But, is it important for our children to know we sin? Absolutely.
Something we practiced with our boys when they were young was making them admit their sin to each other. Let me give you an example…the scene would look something like this…
Daniel would be playing with a Matchbox car; Levi would come and ask to play with it too. Daniel would say no, Levi would take it out of Daniel’s hand, Daniel would hit Levi and Levi would come crying to me about getting hit. If you’re a mom with more than one child, you know this scenario all too well.
It was never enough for us to have our kids simply say they were sorry and ask “will you forgive me?” We took it a step further and made them confess their sin. We would talk through the situation with them until they realized and confessed that Daniel didn’t share because he was being selfish; that Levi took the car anyway, because he was being selfish; that Daniel hit Levi out of vengeance and that Levi tattled on his brother out of revenge, without taking into account that he had played a part in the problem.
We noticed pretty quickly that they didn’t fight as often. They learned to recognize what was going on in their hearts and they wanted to take control of it, rather than letting it control them.
Our boys don’t fight over Matchbox cars anymore. But, after years of being taught to look at their hearts, not just at the situation, their fights don’t last long and they’re pretty quick to confess the root of the problem.
Over the summer one of our boys was being verbally unkind to the other, saying extremely hurtful things. It only took a matter of minutes before he confessed that he was exhausted. He also recognized that he had just come home from a week long camp and was having a hard time transitioning from a week of constant activity to coming home to a calm and quiet environment. The training worked. He recognized what was going on in his heart. He was then able to take control of his sin, rather than letting his sin control him!
But, it isn’t just the training…it’s the example. This is where the parents come in and why it’s important for us to practice what we preach. I make a habit of confessing the root of my sin to my boys the instant I recognize it.
Not long ago I noticed the boys were avoiding me and I realized it was because everything that came out of my mouth was negative and snappy- I would have avoided me too. I could have let it go. But, I didn’t. I want to practice what I preach. So, I went to them, explained that I didn’t sleep well, that I was tired and irritable. I made sure they understood my frustration was not with them, but with myself. I was being selfish; I was letting my irritability control me. My confession of this allowed me to gain control over my irritability. It also taught my sons that I expect the same self control from myself, that I expect from them.
The more aware we are of our sinful nature, the quicker we are to recognize it and the easier it is to control it.
As my boys get older and –gasp- get interested in girls, I want to confess my past sins to them. I want to share the mistakes I made during my dating years. Do I need to share all the details? No. But, do I want them to avoid the same mistakes I made? Yes.
We should be ashamed of our sin. But, we should be more ashamed to keep it to ourselves and not allow our children to learn from it.
A couple of years ago I got caught up in a ring of gossip and I deeply wounded one of my friends. I didn’t have to confess this to my children; but, I did. I told them how I got caught up in gossip, how I deeply wounded my friend and how I realized that the reason I got caught up in this gossip was because I was jealous of this person. I explained to my children how I not only sinned against my friend, but against God. I told them that I confessed my sin to my friend and to God, and that I was forgiven. But, I also explained to them how ashamed I was of myself and how I regretted my actions.
I wanted my children to see the full circle of this situation; my sin, how my sin wounded someone else, my confession and the gift of forgiveness.
Sin is hard to talk about. Sin is hard to confess. But, when we allow our children to see our sinful nature and how God forgives us, we are helping them see their own sin and how God forgives them. Confession bridges the gap between us and our children and allows them to see us in a more transparent way. It makes us, as the parents, seem less threatening and condemning. It allows our children an open line of communication. It allows us to share the goodness of God in a very personal way. When our children are young, our confessions will help them walk behind us, learning from us as parents. When our children are grown, our confessions will help them walk along side of us, as we support each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sin is an ugly, ugly part of our lives. But, confession allows growth, healing and teachable moments. As much as I hate confessing my sins to my children (or to anyone for that matter), I have an even greater desire for my children to walk a straighter path than I do. I’m willing to eat humble pie now and again if it helps my children make better decisions and learn from my mistakes.
I can’t express the depth of my embarrassment when I have to confess my sins to my children because I’ve sinned against them. But, to my surprise, after all these years, they still react the way Levi did when he was 4 years old…it’s okay, they still love me and they still think I’m a good mom.
And, that’s the point of it all – teaching our children that we are all sinners, that we must all confess and because God is faithful to forgive us, we must forgive each other too. I want my children to know I sin…otherwise, what’s the point in telling them that Jesus died for me?