Sunday night Dave took the crew out for ice cream. Jake decided to stay behind. As soon as everyone left, I found out why.
“Mom, I need to talk to you about something.”
He’d been waiting for just such a quiet moment.
“What’s up, bud?”
“I think I have an idol.”
It took me a moment to process that one. It’s not a phrase a 9-year-old boy often uses.
“Where did you hear…? Never mind. How ‘bout we sit down together.”
After we were snugged into the chair-and-a-half, with Jake’s hand rubbing the back of my hair, I asked, “What do you think your idol is?”
“Why do you think Legos are an idol?”
“Because I think about them so much. I would rather play with them than read my Bible. I know that reading my Bible is good, and Legos are keeping me from doing as much of it as I should. I think they’re an idol.”
Ah! A repeat of our conversation the week before.
I held my hands up as if they were scales and launched into an explanation of how we can never do enough “good” to earn God’s acceptance. It’s impossible, which is why He made another Way.
But the anguish in Jake’s face stopped me.
I thought of what I’ve learned through spending time with believers from other cultures—how our Western view of salvation as a transaction is not the only way God presents the Gospel in Scripture. It is justification, yes, but it’s also reconciliation and restoration. It’s relationship, made possible through Christ.
“J-man, what do you think your dad would say if you told him, ‘Dad, I know you’re a runner, so I’m gonna’ start running four miles a day to make you love me more’?”
Jake’s face screwed up as if I’d bought him a hot pink shirt. “Mom, Dad already loves me. That’s not gonna’ make him love me more!”
He was quiet, his brain connecting the dots, seeing in them a picture, a constellation of beauty.
We talked more, about how we know someone loves us, then specifically about how we know God loves us. We talked about God’s joy in Jake’s enjoyment of Legos, how Jake’s creativity, imagination, and collaboration please God; they are gifts from God. We talked about how good things CAN turn into idols (and I thought, “Even Bible reading, clearly!”) and what we do about that.
At one point Jake said something truly beautiful. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like this: “So God wants me to read my Bible so I can know better that He loves me! It’s NOT so He will love me more! That’s not it at all.”
I laughed aloud in delight.
But part of my heart grieved.
Not at his words, but at this truth: my son, like I, will forget, time and time again, that God loves us simply because HE IS LOVE. Jake, too, will wrestle with guilt over “not doing enough.” He will lose the joy of being loved freely by God. He will equate “doing” with relationship, and he will wonder what he has done–or not done–to feel so far from God. He will assume God has withdrawn in anger and fail to realize that his own efforts and guilt have actually pulled him away from God rather than to Him.
I am grateful, not only for strange but wonderful conversations with Jake but also that God is revealing my own tendencies through my son.
But I still don’t want him to wrestle with my struggles. I want him to feel as sure of God’s love for him as he is of his dad’s (and, boy, am I grateful for that!). I want him to draw near to God with full confidence in His grace and mercy.
I want him to fiercely love God—because he knows God first fiercely loved him. I want him to know that God never, ever stops loving him.
I want for him what I want for myself.
And I can be confident that God, Who is a far better parent than I, wants the same for both of us.