Last Friday night, while putting something away, I knocked a wood-framed mirror off a shelf onto my closed laptop, cracking the screen. My husband had to work all day Saturday and woke me at 6:30, as he was dressing to leave, to tell me our dog had had diarrhea all over the living room. I’d had the carpets professionally cleaned, in a fit of nesting, three weeks prior (for the first time ever). Around 8 AM I discovered that my $300 Mac service plan wouldn’t cover the broken screen. At 9 AM when the kids and I arrived at Radio Shack to buy a hard drive for data back-up before before sending my Mac in for repair, we found a huge hole through the front window – it had been robbed at 4 AM that morning – and thus the store was closed for inventory. Seemed like our bad luck was catching.
Ordinary American annoyances these, irritations that we who have sufficient wealth and privilege are bound to encounter– “hardships” much of the rest of the world would do anything to call their own. I kept this in mind through the dad-less hours of carpet-cleaning and calls with computer vendors. Even still, it was a taxing day, and my temper with the kids was definitely short by the time witching hour rolled around. I explained to them that mommy was having a hard day and apologized for my impatience.
“Mom, I’m making you a card,” my 5-year-old informed me a short while later, as I began dinner preparations.
He presented it to me a few minutes later – a picture of me on the beach under a blue sky and yellow-ball sun, accompanied by these words: “Dear Mom, U R dooing hard work. Ceep gong. Good gob. I love U.”
The highlight of my day, to be certain; possibly of my week. Not just the sentiment but that he’d undertaken to pen such an unsolicited note of encouragement. The first sentence is a reference to one of the first Bible verses we learned together: “Hard work always pays off, but talking about it gets nothing done.” (Prov 14:23; paraphrase mine).
There’s no doubt some developmental milestone that the experts cite about the development of empathy and compassion that emerges around my son’s age. That doesn’t interest me especially; what did interest me – what touched me profoundly, in fact – was the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my son. My five-year old took it upon himself to build me up. He displayed – in that small, card-making act – selflessness, encouragement, and Christlike love.
It was nothing earth-shattering, of course, and I’m far from the first mom who’s received a sweet note of encouragement from her young child. Heck, some moms probably get them routinely. We must stop, though, and take note of such moments. Beyond showing gratitude to our thoughtful child, we must thank God that he hears our prayers for our kids. That He is in the business of shaping our child’s heart toward godliness as we pray for this, and as we train our children. It is so easy, amidst the daily grind of life and training and correction, to miss this in our children – or to quickly forget it.
Thank you, oh God, for the evidence of your work in the heart of my child – of all my children. Give me keen eyes to see the ways you’re moving in them, and to adequately demonstrate my excitement about it. Help me communicate to them that my joy in their godliness, in their demonstration of any of the fruits of the spirit, is only a pale shadow of your joy whenever we give the Holy Spirit reign within us. Shape our children’s hearts ever more into Christlikeness as they grow, even as You are likewise shaping our own hearts as we parent them.