With three boys who are only five years apart, a friendly game of putt-putt can quickly get the competitive ( and unfriendly) juices flowing.
We'd only made it to the third hole on the miniature-golf course when one of my boys got a hole in one. He squealed with excitement!
But his joy was short-lived with his brother's harsh words - “That was such an easy hole. You just got lucky. I'm so much better than you at this game.”
The look on my son's face was one of complete defeat, as I’m pretty sure he was hoping his brother would give him a high-five and say something like, “Way to go!”
Knowing my son was crushed in spirit, I turned to my other son and explained, “You know, buddy, your words have power.”
And I reminded him of a verse we’d recently memorized as a family, Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV): “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
I reminded him how this verse teaches us that our words can typically do one of two things.
Our words can build up, or they can tear down.
Our words can breathe life, or they can breathe death into another’s heart.
And I asked him to think about what belief he held in his heart that motivated him to speak harsh words to his brother.
We sat down on a rock together for a few moments in silence. (I'm learning that less is more. And I'm learning to stay out of the way of the work God can and will do in my son's heart.)
Eventually I asked him, “Do you want to be a boy who uses words that build other people up in God’s love, or do you want to be a boy who uses words to build yourself up and tear others down?”
“Build up,” he said softly.
When we finished talking about some of the other things he could have said to speak words of life to his little brother, I put my arm around my son and reminded him of the gospel.
“Hey buddy, this is why God gave us Jesus. He knew that you (and I!) would struggle to always speak words of life to one another. He knew we would struggle to love one another with our words and our actions. So Jesus did that perfectly on our behalf. And when God looks at us, He sees the perfection of His Son, Jesus, covering us. We are free to confess our wrongdoing because we know Christ loves to forgive us. And we know He gives us His Spirit to empower us to love like He has first loved us."
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
My son didn’t need prompting to apologize to his brother after we remembered the gospel. It came freely.
He found his brother on the fourth hole and said, “I'm really sorry for what I said. I got jealous that you scored a hole in one before me. Will you forgive me?”
His brother accepted his apology with a big smile on his face.
In that moment, not only was I grateful for how God worked in my son’s heart to lead him to repentance, but I was reminded of something I am often prone to forget - the words I use to discipline and instruct my kids can also do one of two things.
My words can bring life or they can bring death. I can merely point out their sin and wrongdoing, give a quick lecture about how to do it better next time, and leave my kids wallowing in guilt. Or, I can continue the conversation by pointing my kids to Christ who not only loves to forgive them but also gives them His Spirit to empower them to obey, and gives them His grace to set them free from shame.
Yes, this was another good reminder that while my lectures may garner short-term change in my children’s outward behavior, it is God’s grace alone that will reach and transform their hearts.
Trust me, friend. I miss these precious opportunities often. Which is why I am so very grateful that His Spirit is always working, even when my wisdom is lacking. But it is such a joy when I can witness God's work in my kid's lives, which is why I pray He will continue to open my eyes to moments when I can speak words of GOSPEL life into their hearts.
All is grace,