Isn't mercy something that we all need (the thing of not getting what we deserve)? And with raising children, how do we teach them to have mercy? I'm honestly still praying through what this looks like. Now if we know Jesus, then it’s safe to say that we know mercy fairly well. Have we not seen the mercy of God through Christ–with so many ways we have not 'gotten what we deserve?’ As it’s written
"If You, LORD, kept a record of sins; Lord, who could stand?! (Psalm 103:3 NIV)"
And as a parent who has personally experienced mercy from God, I'm just finding so many opportunities to show mercy when raising my children. Whether it's with my oldest (who is now 16 and has never lived under my roof but I've been spent years seeking to have a relationship with her) or my two toddlers.... so so many opportunities to imitate the kind of Father that God has been to me.
Like one night recently... our family was headed out to visit some friends at their house. If you have little children, then you know how much of a struggle it is just to get out the door. Lord help us all (seems like there's always something). Well this one night, as we were loading up the car, Shalom grabbed a snowball (that was more like an ice block) and threw it at Israel playfully. And then… BAM (insert blood-curdling crying here)!
I’m sure she wasn't expecting it, but it hit her brother smack dab in the face–specifically in his eye. Needless to say, this began to derail the entire evening and trip. As Israel cried for about 20 to 30 minutes straight, he was almost inconsolable. As a father, I was very upset with Shalom and wanted to correct her immediately, but more so wanted to make sure my little guy's eye was fine... and make sure we didn’t need to go to the emergency room. It all happened so fast and was very stressful, but God gave me grace in that moment to calm down and care for Israel and not immediately lash out in impatience, irritation or anger.
"I'm sorry Daddy, I'm sorry Israel" Shalom kept saying as tears began to swell up in her eyes. Even before I said anything to her, she seemed to already sense the terrible mistake she made of hurting her brother. Although they fight at times like any other siblings, our two little ones really do love each other. Even though I could tell that she was regretting throwing that snowball and that it was an accident, the deed was done and I was there waiting for God to show me how to respond to it all.
As I began to see that Israel's eye was going to be ok, I was thanking the Lord and began sensing Him lead me in responding to Shalom for what she had done. At this point, thirty minutes or so had passed and we began to load up the car again. Shalom was still seeming sad/nervous and I could tell she knew that she had hurt her brother–and felt she was in big trouble. But when we got in the car, I began to talk to Shalom about mercy.
"You know you hurt your brother very badly. And for what you did, you deserve a spanking. But because of the mercy God has giving us through Jesus, I am going to give you mercy. Jesus took our punishment when He died for us. And I asked God what to do and I believe He wants me to show you mercy for this and know His forgiveness.” As I shared this with her, also explaining what mercy and the gospel is, it all seemed to really sink down deep with her. She also couldn't stop saying thank you.
We later got to our friend's house and had a great time. The rest of the evening was fun times. And since then, Israel’s eye seems at 100% and Shalom still mentions mercy now and then. Like just the other night, my uber pregnant wife was about to spank Shalom for something she had done and I could hear Shalom in the other room crying out with tears "please Mommy, please show me mercy, I need mercy!" My wife needed help to keep her still for the spanking, and I wanted to come in the room and help but was sadly holding back due to fits of laughter at how cute and funny this was. And my wife ended up showing her mercy that night–as she too couldn't resist how precious the moment was to show her the mercy she was crying out for (yes, it was dramatically cute and comical). It’s our hope as parents that our children will grow up knowing and showing the mercy of God as He leads.
"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy." —Micah 7:18 (NIV)