When Your Child Won't Admit The Truth {The Flaming Dry Erase Marker Incident}

"It's all gonna burn someday." Troy reminded me, as we assessed the damage to our Ethan Allen dining table. "I know, Babe...I just didn't expect it to burn so soon."  I said with a weary smile.

Our mischievous curious almost-four-year old did what was right in his own eyes yesterday afternoon. He uncapped a dry erase marker and lit it on fire with a cozy candle in the middle of my dining tablescape. Did you know that dry erase markers are super flammable? Are you surprised? He was evidently surprised too, since he quickly dropped the enflamed marker onto the ash veneered table and watched it burn until Number 1 came to the rescue. Melted plastic, charred ink, and a destroyed finish awaited me as I came running.

Though none of his brothers had actually seen him do the deed, it seemed evident who the culprit was. Number 5, the baby, had an alibi; he was playing with trains upstairs. It was more than obvious that it had to be the pre-schooler. But he fervently denied having anything to do with the marred table.

What followed was admittedly a bit amusing, as Number 1 led a detailed investigation that would make Mr. Holmes and Mr. Watson proud. A fair trial was conducted and oaths to tell the truth were "sworn." He orchestrated a reenactment of the scene, searched for evidence, and took statements from each of the witnesses, including the presumed guilty party.

I was experiencing a strange combination of anger and shock, so I chose to wait at a distance. I was also flooded with the sense that there was nothing to be gained in a ruined table except what my children could learn through my response and instruction. (I take that back--the opportunity to refinish the table did cross my mind as well. :))

While I waited for my nerves to calm down and for the dissipation of my immediate response to overreact, I listened to Number 4 confidently, adamantly, and passionately defend his innocence. It was so convincing. In fact, I think he had convinced himself. He so effortlessly spoke of "someone else" committing the crime. Even his facial expressions seemed inncocent.  I reminded him of the consequences of lying. I attempted to draw out the truth...but to not avail. The little one was stalwart.

And so it was for two hours-- a seemingly guilt-free disposition that fastidiously held to innocence and ignorance. I chose not to prod, poke, presume, or push...though I wanted to manipulate a confession. I chose to not make it about the table...though I wanted to make him feel as sad as I felt about it.

But I began speaking about Jesus. I told him Christ already knew what truly happened, yes, but more importantly, I started talking to him about what Jesus thinks about sin, what He did to pay for our sin, and how there is no sin that the blood of Christ cannot forgive.

It took him a few minutes...but then he cried. And confessed.

"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"      (Romans 2:4)

OH how the mercy and kindness through the sufficiency of His shed blood has led my wayward heart to repentance, time and time again!

I've played with fire. I've convinced myself of my innocence. I've presumed upon His grace. I've confidently declared "someone else" the guilty one. I've thought myself better than I am. I've considered my foolishness dismissible.

...And Jesus has revealed my folly with the blinding light of His grace, the redemption of one so unworthy.

The Gospel matters in the mundane. It meets us in the sink full of dishes. It intersects with our fears about the future. It has something to say to the messy diapers and the burning markers.

It says that everything points us to our need for Christ.

What have we ever come to by way of freedom, reconciliation, peace, or righteousness if not by the kindness of our Lord, leading us to repentance? I simply don't know any better example for parenting than our Lord.

May we meditate on what has been accomplished for us on the Cross, that we might know more fully what it is to lead our children to repentance.