All of our children have chores. The chores vary based upon age and ability, but every day every person in this house has something to do. Some children do their chores well and without complaining while others grit their teeth and work hard to do the littlest work possible. One of my children is assigned the task of sweeping under the table after every meal. He can use a vacuum or a broom, but either way, the crumbs have to come up off the floor and into the trash. I’ve always thought this was a reasonable request and didn’t expect much pushback—until yesterday.
I was standing at the sink on the one mat we have in the kitchen when my feet were met with quite a few lumps, so I decided to investigate. Much to my surprise, I discovered the floor-sweeping child had elected to sweep the crumbs under the rug instead of putting them into the trash. Logically, this made absolutely no sense in my mind. The rug is literally 4 feet away from the dust pan and the garbage can. But for some reason, this child made a conscious decision to hide the pile of crumbs instead of doing what he was told. As is typical around here, the situation morphed into an important object lesson. Knowing consequences were around the corner and that there was no easy way to pass blame onto anyone else, the child fessed up immediately and settled in for a long talk about sin and repentance. He was thrilled—well maybe not.
Our sin is a lot like crumbs on the kitchen floor. How we handle our crumbs says a lot about who we are and who we follow. We can leave the crumbs out, never sweep them up, and pretend that it just doesn’t matter that our floor is dirty. We could even make an excuse that we’re leaving the crumbs out for the dog, or rationalize that everyone else has a dirty kitchen floor, or maybe we could even convince ourselves that the crumbs aren’t really there to begin with. For most unsaved people, sin is usually handled in one of those ways.
Another option, utilized by my chore-allergic child, is to sweep our crumbs up, hide them in a pile under the rug, and pretend the crumbs no longer exist. However this method falls short, because God sees all of our crumbs. He knows all of our sins. We can’t hide them from Him no matter where we put them. Children may opt for this course of action when they know they’ve done something wrong, so we have to intentionally teach our children to confess and repent of sin. Our crumbs, like our sins, must be acknowledged and discarded. We cannot bathe in sin nor can we pretend it doesn’t exist. We have to repent of our sins and throw them away.
One of my first vivid memories of my childhood was learning this specific lesson. I was about 5 years old when I hit my annoying younger brother. I’m sure he deserved it, but while praying with my mother that night she told me that I had to confess my sin to God and ask Him to forgive me of it. I had to be very sorry for what I did, so sorry that I would not ever do it again. I was NOT amused. I did not want to confess my sin and I most certainly did not want to give up the opportunity to smack my annoying little brother when he bothered me again. But she pressed on. I ended up in tears because my fighting little spirit did not want to submit to the authority of God. I wanted to do things my way. Fortunately my mother would not concede to my will but insisted that I yield my will to God’s. That night I confessed my sin to God and asked Him to forgive me. I repented of my sin and I relinquished my will to His. It wasn’t easy, but it made a lasting impression. My mom taught me that repentance was much more than simply saying, “I’m sorry.” It is a condition of the heart and mind.
People of all ages struggle with wanting to do things their own way. Yet teaching children to submit to God’s authority, to confess their sins, and turn from them is an extremely important part of the Christian life. Just saying “sorry” is not true repentance. Pretending you didn’t sin to begin with only shows regret. We teach our children that true repentance means that you believe what you did was wrong, you wish you had never done it, and you won’t do it again. I’m not sure all of my children quite understand this concept yet, partially because it goes hand in hand with a personal relationship with God. Repentance is born out of believing that what Jesus said is true and ultimately submitting to God’s authority. We cannot force our children to love God, but we can instill in them the truth. Hebrews 12:6 says that the Lord disciplines those He loves. As the Lord corrects and guides us, we should do the same with our children. It isn’t easy, but thankfully, God will help us as we attempt to raise children who love and honor Him.
Sarah and her husband have six children under the age of 12, 2 dogs, and way too much laundry! When they aren't busy with school, sports, and church, Sarah enjoys exploring northern Michigan and camping with her family.