My daughter and I recently attended a sweet baby shower celebrating a baby girl and we returned home with a single gold balloon. I put a loop in the string, instructed my daughter to hold onto it with all of her fingers, and told her several times if she let go, the balloon would fly away and we wouldn't be able to get it back. We arrived home, I held onto the balloon as we got out of the car, and then I looped it around my daughter's hand and let go. So far so good.
It took less than 3 steps towards the front door for my daughter to let go, and watch in devastation as her balloon rose freely into the sky. She immediately burst into tears, saying she "forgot to hold onto it" and a tiny piece of my mommy heart broke. She had done the thing we had guarded so carefully against; she had let go of her balloon. I had let go too, and the worst had happened. Thoughts immediately started going through my mind. "I shouldn't have let go," and "I could have spared her this disappointment."
Then I was impacted with the realization that this is life. "Let's just watch it," I told her. "It is beautiful." We watched the balloon rise into the sky. "Do you think it will reach the clouds?" she asked. "Maybe it will come back." No.
The conversation that followed was more precious than I could have hoped. Lately we've engaged in the typical struggle parents have when asking their kids to obey. What an opportunity this was in an emotional moment to explain that God requires obedience for a reason, and disobedience often produces consequences that you can't take back. God requires obedience from mommies, daddies, and children, and He has their best in mind.
We've been struggling with little sister regularly going against our instruction and going into the street or walking the other way when we call her. I've explained to my 4 year old that when younger sister disobeys she could get hurt, and we couldn't go back and fix it; we would instead have to fix up our baby girl. In this emotional circumstance surrounding her balloon, my 4 year old connected with this truth all too well. Her eyes went wide as she proceeded to tell me all the consequences from disobedience she could think of that can't be taken back.
Reinforcing guilt with a child is not appropriate when they are already sad or repentant. In fact, the freedom Jesus gives us in forgiveness of sin is the opposite of guilt — God's truth offers hope, freedom, and life. I spent a good 20 minutes outside of our house watching our lost balloon, holding my daughter, and telling her I love her so much more than she could ever love a balloon, and God loves her infinitely more than that. In such a small instance, the amazing hope God offers was magnified in a way she could relate to. I am thankful God often gives me the insight to intentionally connect with my daughter in small moments. In this case, simply going inside and telling my daughter to "get over her balloon and stop fussing" would have only increased her disappointment, and possibly deterred her from openly sharing her struggles with me in the future.
How often as moms do we want to fix the situation that is hurting our child? But sometimes when we "let go", bad things happen. And that's exactly how our children learn. I pray for "gentle lessons" for my kids, where God captures their hearts, illustrates the consequences of disobedience, but also protects them from the true pain that sin can so easily produce. God has been so faithful in my own life to gently teach me His truth and I pray He would guard my kids in the same way. I've found teaching theology to kids effectively happens exactly like this, in small moments that impact their tiny world but ultimately are inconsequential. Losing her balloon was not trivial to my daughter, but it produced a precious teachable moment.
We watched until the balloon became a tiny speck, marveling at God's beautiful sky, whispy white clouds, and the grandness of it all surrounding the tiny gold balloon. When we came inside my 4 year old surprisingly asked me to read her a story from the Bible. I read her Psalm 16, "Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance." (v.5-6) God is so good, even during our difficult moments. The last few years we've known some friends who have been tested with truly painful circumstances. Their testimonies and steady faith throughout heartbreaking pain are witness of God's powerful love and the peace He offers those who walk with Him. Ultimately earth is not our home; God designed mommies, daddies, children, and all humans for so much more and He walks with us every step of the way on this journey that we call life.
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