Have you ever done something smart that turned out to be stupid? Have you ever made a good choice for yourself or others that seemed the best course of action, only for it to blow up in your face?
This 4-part series is based on something that happened to me when I was 5-years-old: the choices that followed, and the consequences of those choices that still resound today, both in memory and in lessons, for how I need to interact with the children in my life.
So… I remember going to my friends house to spend the night. I remember the drum set that his father and older brother shared. And I remember my friend’s brother getting in trouble with his father — something I had little experience with, and that terrified me. And in a moment when my fight-or-flight reflexes took hold, I chose to run home.
The next thing I remember is standing alone in the chilly Colorado springtime air on the corner of the street. The sky was black, and the streetlights were bright and yellow. My house was literally one block from my friend’s house and I had two choices of routs to take. I could walk in the road. It was a clear night with high visibility and the streets were clean. Or I could walk in the space between the gutter and the fence that blocked off the homes that I would be walking by. If there’s one thing a 5-year-old knows, it’s don’t walk in the street. So I chose to walk in the unkempt area between the road and fence. There aren’t a whole lot of things that I remember about nature in Frederick, Colorado, but one thing I do remember is that they have stickers. Not the fun glue-covered kind that you stick on your guitar case (that’s where my stickers go). No, these stickers are the kind that will attach to your bike tires and suck the air out of them if you dare venture within 20 feet. I went through more bike tires in the year I lived there than I have in my entire life since. And I was running home… barefoot.
I walked slowly and carefully, knowing that I would eventually get stuck, but stuck was better than being hit with a car. But then the first sticker jammed it’s way into my flesh. Then the second. Then too many to count. With tears streaming down my face, I limped over to the gutter, hoping to find safety and less-pain in the comfort of the cold concrete. But the damage was done, and the pain grew with every step. I could see my home through my tear-filled eyes, but I didn’t know how I would ever reach it.
Then I was in the air. My friend’s mother had swooped in and gathered me up. She quickly carried me the final hundred feet or so to my front door. I was saved.
I know the layout of this story is odd, but if I put it all together it would be far too long. This story will conclude in part 4 of Safe and Sorry, but right now, let’s look at a couple of lessons that we can learn from part 3.
Children don’t understand that some rules are contextual. Too many children are hurt in this world because we teach them to “do what you’re told” or “do what so-and-so says”. We so engrain these statements so deeply in their minds that when faced with a situation where an older person is telling them to do something dangerous or wrong, they have no choice but to “do what you’re told!”
With my own children, and my youth group students, I’d rather teach them to “make good choices”. I teach them that their bodies are their own and belong to no one else. I teach them that sometimes, to make a good choice, people won’t be happy and there may be negative consequences to a good choice, but it’s worth it.
Children will force themselves to endure great amounts of pain to make the people they love happy. Because I believed that I would get in trouble, or my mother would be unhappy, I chose to walk barefoot into a field of thorns.
Many children in our world have been coerced by their subconscious to cause themselves one type of damage or another, based on how they believe the people they care about will respond. I need the kids in my life to understand that no matter what choices they make, I will love them and I will help them deal with consequences. And I will not give up on them, because their Heavenly Father won’t give up on them.
Every hurting child, not only needs, but deserves to be saved. There is nothing that a child can do to remove themselves from the Father’s love. We need to be solid representations of that love. We can’t turn our eyes away from them. This is our business.
Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment’s section. Seriously! We’re all in this together.