watching our firstborn start to understand sin

I asked Jesse to write this last night since he was the one who actually experienced the breakthrough/down and had the cool conversation with Judah. It's really crazy cool because we have been lamenting lately the fact that when Judah does something really hurtful or even hateful to us or to Layla, that there is no actual recognition of having done something truly wrong. He does the classic kid thing of just rote repeating our words of apology because he "has" to, but rarely/never seems to actually empathize with or even appreciate the pain he has caused. We've been talking and praying about how to help him practice a heart of repentance that will really feel the depth of the hurt he can cause with his words/actions (and how to stay away from the line that crosses over into shaming him) since this is something crucial to a life with Jesus.

And I'll let Jesse tell you what happened last night.

Right before bedtime tonight Judah and Layla got into one of their classic fights.  Judah had the ipad and Layla was encroaching on his territory wanting to watch what he was watching after we got home from the Library.  But these days its a 50/50 chance whether Judah will be sweet and kind and allow her to cuddle up next to him, or punch her in the face and tell her to leave…

But tonight he just said, “I wish I didn’t have a sister.”

I heard it in the hall, but Keight made him go repeat it to me.  When he told me what he said, I informed him that he’d lost a love token (this system of rewarding jesus-like behavior that we've been using for a little over  year now), and that definitely wasn’t showing love to his sister.  And that seemed like the end of it…

But apparently little man’s wheels were still turning.  That guy is a thinker and a processor for sure.  We went on with the normal bedtime routine, PJs, reading a book, etc, but when it came time to get up into bed, Judah bonked his head on the way up into his nook, so I went up there to check on him.

He was sad because he bonked his head on something, but perhaps that also triggered a thought because he looked at me with tear-filled, innocent/guilty, 4 year old eyes and said, “Daddy, I don’t know why I’m so mean to people sometimes.  I don’t know why I’m so mean to Layla.  I don’t know how to change though, I don’t know why I punch her and hit her.”  And then he proceeded to descend into greater tears.

Now this was a really strange place for me as a dad, because my heart was breaking because of how sad he was, and because I too know how crummy it feels whenever you realize what a mean and hurtful person you can be, but to also feel trapped and unable to change… but at the same time… I was also incredibly proud of him. 

I was proud because what he was feeling seemed to be the beginning of some of the most important feelings that a person can wrestle with in this life. 

And then he said, “And God sees all the times that I’ve been so mean to Layla…” and he began to cry again and said tearfully, “And I don’t know what He’s gonna do!”

And I really had to fight back every instinct that I had at this point to reassure him that everything would be fine, and that God sees all the good things that he does too, and knows that he’s a good boy… because I knew that he was on the verge of realizing one of the most important truths that anyone can learn about themselves in this life… he was about to learn that he was a sinner.

Not because I told him so.  Not because anyone explained sin, or the 10 commandments to him… but because he felt it in his heart.  Because he knew that when God looked at his life… He wouldn’t be happy with what He found.   And it was so so sad.  And I was so sad… but at the same time, I knew that what was happening was so so important.

2 Cor. 7:9-10 says, …”yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

I’m so glad that God has been taking me back to those verses again and again, because I knew that what came next was the very most important thing.  Being sad about wrong doing is the right starting point… but where you go from there is absolutely crucial.  So much so that Paul says its actually a matter of life and death.

So I grabbed his hand and looked into his fearful eyes and asked Judah… “What do you think we should do, buddy?”

And he didn’t know.  I could tell that he was feeling the pressure of being trapped, of wanting and needing a way out… but also not seeing one.  He was hearing the message of the bad news, that wrong is wrong and that it deserves to be punished.  That HE deserved to be punished…

But since he had come to see that… it was also time for the Good News.

So I got to spend the next 5 minutes telling Judah about how we can ask God to forgive us, and know that He does because Jesus took the punishment that we deserve.  That Jesus took his wrong… so that he could be right.  And so that we can pray to God to not just forgive us, but also give us a new heart to love people like He does.

And there were some fun 4 year old moments, like when Judah wondered if Jesus and God were enough to look after all the kids in the world (“there’s like a hundred kids and only two [holds up two fingers] guys!”).  So we got to talk about how big God and Jesus are… not how tall they are… but how big their heart is… how big their love is.  And we got to talk about the Holy Spirit (don’t worry buddy, there are THREE guys!).

I told Judah about how Jesus had to die to make all of this possible.  How he took everyone’s punishment… (“even the desert people, and the jungle people?” he asked.)  And he wrestled with the sadness of Jesus dying for a while too.  And lamented how, with Jesus dying, the world was back down to just two guys to take care of everyone.

But then we got to talk about new life… eternal life… and the hope of a new world, without pain, and without death where we’ll get to do all sorts of fun and cool things like flying and exploring… but I told him I thought the best part will be that we’ll be able to be with our big God and His big love forever and always.

Judah thought the best part would be that we could live in Africa and speak Spanish.

We finished by praying together and Judah from his heart asked God to please forgive him for being so mean and hurtful to his sister.  And then he asked God to help give him a new heart for his sister to be able to love her, like God loves her.

And to that I said a big hearty, happy, and proud AMEN.


  1. I think Judah has a pretty awesome dad!

  2. Oh how hard it is to see them struggle with this, but yet.... so very proud of you all that you have lead him to this point. A beginning of softening that little heart to the call of Jesus!

  3. what an incredibly special moment and realization! Handled by a champion dad too :)