As a teacher, I’m constantly breaking complex concepts into simple tasks that can be practiced, repeated, and built upon until my students can understand the complex concept. Lately I’ve been applying this same strategy to my parenting. I’ve been thinking about ways I can simplify some of the most essential moral lessons I want to teach my daughters before they leaves our house into a form that even a 2 year old can comprehend. These are two of the basic principles I’ve come up with as I try to prepare my 2 year old’s heart (and my baby’s heart!) for the gospel:
1) Most importantly, I want Claire and Rachel to know that “There is ALWAYS HELP when you are willing to ask for it.” If Claire resists my help in the morning, I let her try to put on her own shirt. When she comes out with her arms going the wrong way through the sleeves, finally humbled enough by the task to ask for help, I help her. When Rachel gets stuck on her tummy and cries out for help, I help her. I want my girls to recognize that help is always available for those humble enough to recognize that they need help. If I were to write the gospel on the back of a dime, I think this would be it: Help is available to the humble through Jesus Christ. For now, it is enough for my daughters to know that those who ask, receive.
2) Secondly, I am teaching Claire that “You are free to make your own choices, but your choices have consequences.” Claire is old enough to understand that she doesn’t have to listen to what I say. She’s also old enough to understand that there will be consequences for not listening. Sometimes the consequences are natural and I can simply allow her to experience them–a wet shirt from tipping the glass too far, a tumble to the ground from trying to jump over a toy. Sometimes I must intervene because the consequences would be too painful–like getting struck by a car in a parking lot–or too far removed (or too harmful to other people, like her little sister!) When she chooses not to pick up the toys, she doesn’t get to play with them.
When we are young, our free will seems like one of the most generous gifts God gave us. He allows us to make our own choices and face our own consequences. As I have aged, I’ve found that his Word is actually his most generous gift. He has not just given us the opportunity to make our own choices, he has given us instructions on how to make choices that avoid negative consequences. These choices are sometimes hard to make and even harder to stick to, but they are never harder than the consequences that come from trying to carve out our own paths.
This lesson, then, goes hand in hand with the first: You are free to make your choices–either after taking the advice offered or not!–but you will have to face the consequences of your choices. And when you do, there is always help for those humble enough to ask for it. Help in making choices and help in dealing with the consequences. Help in the form of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the help of the Holy Spirit, the intervention of our Mighty God, or the love of the fellowship of believers.
The basics of Christianity are simple enough for a child to understand and complex enough to challenge even the most intelligent among us for a lifetime. I’m praying my girls are just getting started on a journey of faith that will last into eternity…