» Ice cream Gospel

After a few weeks of turbulent behavior that manifested itself in name calling, hitting and excluding I was at my wits end as a parent. My kids were in chaos mode. I attribute much of this to the end of the year craziness that is public school, but it was far exceeding what I was willing to write off as typical behavior. Those of you that read my blog regularly are probably thinking… is her house always in chaos mode? Yes. It is. Four kids, jam-packed together in age will do that to you. And then there’s trauma…

So. In the midst of my frustration I thought that giving them a wildly indulgent incentive would curb some of their misbehavior. I pitched the deal during breakfast.

If you guys can refrain from hitting and being awful to each other for one week I will take you to the Frozen yogurt place for DINNER, and let you have as many toppings as you want.

(this plan was doomed to fail from the start)

With eyes full of delight they agreed. Within five minutes they were BACK AT IT AGAIN. My benevolent words were still hanging in the air. They should have been giggling and considering which of 1,000 tasty topping they would choose. But no. They were in full heathen mode, minus one who was sobbing and begging the other three to stop.

On a normal day I am quick to address the behavior, offer choices, redirect. But in this moment I just stood, let my mind escape the scene in front of me. As I was standing there Psalm 130: 3-4 came to me.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
    and that’s why you’re worshiped.

Even in the Old Testament, hearts were being prepared for Jesus. Hearts were bent toward a God who forgives. A God who would send His own son to give the ultimate gift. So what does this mean right now, for me, for these children I’m trying desperately to raise well?

It means taking advantage of moments of chaos. It means showing them what grace, forgiveness and love looks like when they don’t deserve it. I started to think through what this might look like in light of the ice cream incentive that they obviously were not going to earn. And honestly, how silly I was for offering such a thing in the first place. I let everything sink in for about 3 days until finally I sat them down on the couch for a talk after school.

“Hey guys,” I said, “remember when I offered you an ice cream dinner in exchange for good behavior?” They remembered. “Do you think you earned that? Were you good enough?” With heads low, two said no, one said nothing and one said YES! because there will always be that kid.

“Well what if I told you that despite your choices, I want to give you the ice cream anyway? What if I said I want to give you the ice cream based on my love for you and not what you can do for me in return?”

An unexpected reaction came from one child. Tears, “no mom, we don’t deserve it. We don’t, ” she said. The others looked at her like she was crazy and tried to quiet her.

I asked her if she would accept it, even though she felt she didn’t deserve it. She nodded. It was strangely quiet. And here’s when I told them something I want them to carry into every aspect of their spiritual lives.

“Guys. Jesus came for you. He was the only way, he was the plan throughout the Bible. He gave himself as a sacrifice for you even though you can’t do anything in return for him. Sure, you can try your best to be good, you can follow the rules, you can honor him with your words and actions… but you’ll never be perfect enough on your own.”

“It’s impossible!” One shouted in that moment.

“Yes.” I agreed. “In your life you’ll make bad choices, you won’t be perfect. But Jesus paid it all long ago when he gave his life for yours.”

Nothing you have done or ever will do can change that. Forgiveness, grace and salvation are yours if you accept them.

“And also know this. Just as God extends grace, which is receiving something we don’t deserve, and forgiveness… I will always extend grace and forgiveness to you. This will always be a home of 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances. My love for you is fueled by the deep love I received and accepted when I was 5 years old.”

So who wants to go for ice cream?

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

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{Friends, I don’t always think clearly, or calmly… but I’ve been making an effort to look and listen for God’s precious words. I believe that if we are watching and listening, we will hear him speak into our chaotic moments.}

About the author

Erica

Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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