Today’s surprise lesson trumped the thrilling multiplication drills I had planned. We awoke to the news that my son’s bike was stolen. The handlebar light found lying lonely in the driveway.
Like most parenting scenarios, I had to think on my feet about the best way to respond. This obviously isn’t a major tragedy to us. But in your eight-year-old world it might be.
What do we do when these things happen in life? They can happen to any of us and I quickly jumped to meet the challenge that this could damage or strengthen their little view of this confusing, unjust world. How do I shepherd in this moment? Thank God when grace takes over our thoughts and anger is dispelled.
I want to invite you into our morning conversation because sometimes these little people I’m rearing blow my mind. By 10 a.m., I didn’t care about what other learning needed to happen today. This was enough.
So first, we discussed, does how you respond to frustrating situations matter?
We went over examples like how they could make a mess once and I could yell and label them as messy OR ask again to put something away and show them how. Which response do they like? I could really do damage to their heart or help to restore and reassure it with mercy. Does that extend outside of our home as well?
Second, this person that took our bike, what might their life look like if they are tempted to steal from someone’s yard? I asked them if they were tempted to steal things they saw in the neighbor’s yard? When they said no I asked why.
Why aren’t you tempted to steal the neighbor’s basketball when they’re not at home? Is it because you have your own? Because we taught you that’s wrong? Because we are parents you could ask for something and we might help you get it? Perhaps people don’t have these elements in their lives.
We made a list of emotions and tried to think what might motivate them in each emotion to steal.
ME: What about sadness?
KIDS: Maybe his bike got stolen.
Maybe just getting new things makes him feel happy.
Maybe he wanted one for Christmas and never got one.
What about anger?
Maybe he doesn’t like us for some reason. (Umm…Ouch. I hadn’t thought of that.)
Maybe it’s revenge because someone stole his bike.
What if he’s hungry or poor?
What if he took our bike so he could pawn it or sell it for money or trade it for something.
Or did it for his parents because they needed something.
What if he did this because he’s happy? Is that possible?
Maybe he’s happy because he thinks he can do whatever he wants.
Maybe they just took a joy ride down the steep street behind us.
What about peer pressure? What if he’s lonely but it seems friends will accept him if he takes on their dares? What if his parents are the ones putting on that pressure? Would that be confusing if your parents tell you stealing is OK and the cops can’t be trusted? Would that distort your idea of what right and wrong really is?
What if he feels unloved?
What if he didn’t get a bike and feels unloved; that people didn’t care about his needs?
I was astounded by their answers and their ability to consider the conditions of others. Isn’t that what’s needed for us to really see those around us and empathize with them? I didn’t imagine I could have felt thankful for a bike getting stolen, but was starting to feel that in our discussion.
Finally, how do we feel for this person if we think that any one of these problems could be his motivation to take from others? How should we respond?
So, we could:
1) Be Angry, Unforgiving, and Pray against them? OR
2) Be Loving, Forgiving, and Pray for them?
Which would be the best response? We voted. And they chose #2.
So, we decided to send this person a message.
We prayed for this person to seek God’s forgiveness and choose a better path for their life. He has so much more for them to do. And that we would be ready with the chance to give grace if they should ask. There was a brokenness for them now and not a trace of anger.
Then I appreciated their thoughtfulness as they chose what they considered a “friendly” color of turquoise paper, mounted it with cardboard in a page protector and staked it as a sign at the end of our driveway.
What will we do if they knock on our door? What if the bike just reappears in the driveway? Or likely we will never see it again. Does that change us?
Is it possible that this could be the start of someone’s redemption story? Would you be willing to pray with me that it would be?
I know sometimes I naively face life in a rosy, optimistic way. It’s how I make it through dentist trips and road trips. But I would rather err on the side of second-chances toward someone in my community who needs it. I want to be a mercy-giver more, in my home and outside of it.
Thanks, stranger, for our lesson today.