Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wife Rule #60: Just Pass the Cheerios

Everyone knows that toddlers and their Cheerios in church are a Great American Icon, like Winnie the Pooh and his honey pot, like a baseball fan and his ballpark frank, like senior citizens and their Milk of Magnesia.

And if you don’t happen to know that, it’s only because you have never had the spiritually fulfilling experience of being trapped during a sermon holding your sleeping infant, while your toddler, lingering just out of arm’s reach with a wicked twinkle in her eye, dumps her entire Ziploc baggie of Cheerios out in a slow-motion stream, smiling at you all the while. Pat-a-pat-pat-pat-pat-paaaaaaaaaaaaat goes the stream of Cheerios, followed by the inevitable celebratory tap-dance of joy: crunch crunchity-crunch.

But while I’ve never learned a valuable life lesson from Milk of Magnesia yet, my wife and I did learn something profound from Cheerios in church. I have no idea what sermon was preached from the pulpit that day, but I doubt I will ever forget the lesson I learned in the pew.

You see, my wife and I are trying to be Good Parents. Don’t ask us exactly what this means, because we failed to read the job description carefully before applying and we somehow lost the instruction manual. But despite our spotty knowledge on the subject, we have learned about a few of the rules that Good Parents have to follow.

One of these is Follow-Through. Follow-Through simply means that you do what you say. Thus, if a Good Parent threatens their child that the next time she intentionally dumps out her baggie of Cheerios at church she will lose the privilege of possessing said baggie of Cheerios, then if the baggie is intentionally dumped, the baggie must go. Baggie-dump, baggie-go. Simple, beautiful Justice. Something even a child could understand.

To be honest, I don’t remember what three-year-old Dawn did that day in church to lose her baggie of Cheerios, but it must have been Serious, because we laid down the law, and she broke it, and she incurred the Consequence: her baggie was revoked.

There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the loss of the Cheerios. My wife and I were feeling proud, knowing that as Good Parents we had succeeded in teaching a lesson that was really sinking in. Cause and effect. Dawn, with her miserable, red, puffy eyes, even looked somewhat repentant. Sweet Justice.

And then, without warning, one-year-old Rachel toddled into the picture. With gorgeous, oversized eyes, a half-grown-in-toothy-grin, and pure innocence that glowed like a halo around her blond-topped, angelic face, she was a lean, mean, Daddy-melting machine.

And with heart, too. She noticed Big Sister suffering and carrying on, and quickly concocted a master plan to help. She toddled over to Dawn, and holding out her baggie of Cheerios, offered to share.

She had apparently Learned All She Needs to Know without ever having Been to Kindergarten.

I instinctively reached towards her, about to put the kibosh on her unauthorized sharing. Dawn had made a choice, and was reaping her just desserts. I couldn’t let Rachel, no matter how innocent she was, or how pure her motives were, or how much her big, Bambi eyes bore into my self-righteous soul, spoil this important learning lesson.

And then, predictably, I melted. It wasn’t just Rachel—it was a realization that burst into my heart like a flash of bright light.

Who was I to deny Rachel the right to share? It’s not like Dawn was stubbornly unrepentant. She was a penitent soul under the penalty of Justice, and Rachel came to intercede on her behalf, to offer freely what was hers to give. It was precisely because Rachel had broken no rules—because she was innocent—that I found myself unable to stop her from reaching out to give freely to someone in need. It wouldn't have been fair to get in the way. Justice seemed to demand that I allow this little mediator to pay the penalty for Dawn, to provide Mercy.

And then into my mind came thoughts of the great Mediator of mankind, the Innocent, Holy One who came into the world to save all who would repent and believe in Him. It is Mercy—a gift freely given to us by the only One who is worthy to give it—that satisfies the demands of Justice on our behalf.

And I realized further, perhaps for the first time, that Justice works both sides of this equation: it not only demands payment of the penalty of a broken law, but also demands that intercession made by a worthy Mediator be accepted as payment. When penitence is real, and the gift of Mercy is freely given by one who has done no wrong, how can it be refused?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Mercy and Justice: it's pretty neat how they work together. It's something even a parent can understand.


Sylvia said...

Very well said. The wonderful lessons our children quietly teach... Thanks for sharing this.

Shell said...

OH, I'm so glad we aren't the only cheerio spillers in the Curtis family.

S&J said...

Really a great analogy. --Dad