Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:1-7 (NRSV)
I remember the day I first realized my oldest daughter was a sinful creature. She had been fascinated with something on our coffee table and we told her a number of times not to touch it. While she knew few words at this stage in her life, she was fluent in “no” and “mine.” I was watching her stand by the table, staring at the object when she turned to look at me. As she looked me in the eye, she extended her hand toward the object. I very firmly said, “No” and her hand stopped, and then started up again, her eyes never looking away from mine. I used her full name when I told her not to touch the object, but her hand continued to move, her gaze never wavering. Finally, she touched the object and I let her know she was in trouble.
There was an immediate change from open disobedience to self-preservation as she realized the consequences of her actions. There were many tears and whimpers, but in the end, she apologized in toddler fashion. It was a scene repeated more than once in her younger years. We watched her go through the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7 – “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:17-18)
This was the time for us to teach her how to ask God for help. Simple prayers of holding her hands clenched like fists, holding onto the bad things in her heart, and then letting them go when she asked God for forgiveness; steady reminders to pray for God’s help whenever and wherever she needed to; and celebrations when she made good choices. They were the first steps down the right road. Owning up to our sin is not easy and certainly does not feel good, but it leads to goodness we cannot otherwise have.
While we journey with our children, we need to be aware of our own fallen moments, to be humble enough to apologize when our transgressions cause them pain or hurt. When we say something unkind to our spouse in front of our children, we need to have the integrity to apologize in front of our children. If we fall short in our walk with God when our children are watching, we need to make them part of our process of repentance. God desired one thing from Adam and Eve in the passage above and it was repentance born of a contrite heart. Instead, He received excuses, denials and passed blame. God deserves so much more than attempts to manipulate his grace.
Today, pray that God will give you the opportunity to teach your child about repentance. Pray for the courage to repent in front of your children. Pray for relationships with your heavenly Father and your children to be marked by honesty, grace and love.