He called out to me about 20 minutes after I had tucked him into bed. When I walked into his room, he immediately burst into gut-wrenching sobs. His sticky hands reached for mine and his broken words started confessing. He showed me the bag where a chewed up gumball was hiding; purchased at a restaurant a few days earlier. He had found the quarter in his pocket and bought the gum while Josh paid our bill. He felt guilty and had hidden it for later, knowing we would have told him no. He then showed me some sticky wrappers. Candy, that he had taken from a container at church. Candy that tasted nothing like he had imagined. Guilty conscience is an ingredient that is known to quickly replace any sweetness.
He continued to cry but told me all about how he had done it. He wanted me to touch his sticky hands and smell his “candy-breath.” No longer hiding, he bore all. Sparing no detail, I knew he longed to feel clean. To not think about his actions as he slept, any longer. Guilt is a painful, all-consuming feeling.
I believe guilt making us feel sick is a God ordained reaction. He longs for us to desire repentance and restoration but He also knows we’ll need encouragement to pursue it. He knows it’s hard work and we’ll need a reason to keep trying. Our bodies are designed to dread separation from God; physical symptoms are difficult to ignore.
I held my son and talked through his consequences. We talked about who else, in the situation, he needed to apologize to. We prayed together and we washed his hands. We brushed his teeth. We celebrated being clean, physically and spiritually. The only good thing about sin is the process of restoration. Restoration is always worth celebrating. A forgiven soul is a blessing to everyone who is near. It reminds us of God’s work. Of His gentle kindness. Of how we can be forgiven too.
God knows we will sin. We are broken individuals. Pastor Craig Groeschel suggests, the sign He is working in our hearts and is in control of our life, is marked by how much time there is between our sin and our genuine repentance before God and others involved. Repentance can be illustrated, so to speak, by someone walking down a path. If the sinful choices are one direction, the repentant person will turn completely around and go the opposite way towards life. Genuine repentance never keeps going the same direction expecting to be cleansed. God’s way is never going the same direction as sin, those paths will never cross.
While his stealing and sneaking candy made me sad, the situation as a whole caused me to celebrate. As a mom, there is no greater joy than God allowing me to see first-hand that He was at work in my child’s life! My son was learning and building a foundation of listening and obeying the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
When Paul was speaking to the Church of Corinth, in 2 Corinthians, he touches on what a parent’s heart feels in the discipline and restoration process. Our hearts do not rejoice because of our child’s grief, but because they were grieved into repenting. They will, Lord willing, experience godly grief (7:9). Paul reminds us that “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you…” (7:10-11).
I long for my children, myself and my husband even, to experience grief over our sin. I pray that our family genuinely grieves over what breaks God’s heart. For in that process, we find life. Life-giving, godly grief that produces salvation without regret. Earnestness towards pursuing truth.
Restoration is always worth celebrating: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).