I remember times while I was growing up, after I had done something wrong and was about to be disciplined, that my mom would say “this hurts me more than it hurts you.” Of course I didn’t believe her and, instead, thought she got some sinister pleasure out of doling out my punishment.
Then I had children of my own and found out what she meant. My job is to be a good parent, to the best of my ability raise them to be God fearing, responsible, productive members of society. I make them aware of consequences they will face if they don’t comply with the rules of the house and then, when they are disobedient, I have to follow through and mete out the discipline that is the result of their choice to disobey. For the most part they behave appropriately and do as they are asked, but every once in awhile they completely lose their senses and mentally challenge me through disobedience. It makes me crazy! When those times occur it is my responsibility as their parent to be consistent in delivering the discipline that they knew would be a consequence to their action. It would be so much easier to just let it go, to say “oh, they’re really good kids, it’s no big deal, they didn’t understand, it’s okay…” But if I fail to follow through in disciplining them I am doing several things: I teach them that I am not a person of my word, I am a liar; I teach them that they do not have to be accountable for the choices they make in life; I teach them that are above the rules; I teach them that they do not have to respect me or others that will be in authority over them in life; etc
Now I understand what my mom meant. I love my kids more than anything on this earth and most of the time my kids are good! To see the their little faces as they are enduring the “pain” of the discipline – grounding, losing privileges, extra chores or homework – it hurts me. It would be so much easier to just tell them not to do it again and let it go, but I can’t do that. I need to be consistent and follow through with the consequences so that they know mom means business and they need to respect the rules of the house and conduct themselves properly.
Change the scene to the Friday Nightstrike Honduras style. For the past 4 weeks we have been implementing changes to the Friday soccer game so that it more closely resembles the Bridgetown Nightstrike back home. We are bringing a home cooked meal, washing feet and providing new socks, and cutting hair when a stylist is available. But we also felt that it was imperative to make the evening a drug free event, to include a gospel message, and to teach the kids how to conduct themselves politely and appropriately. The first few Fridays were pretty bumpy, but this past week it all seemed to click. All but one of the kids gave their glue bottles to Brian before soccer began. He explained to them that this was no longer going to be a place where they could come on a Friday night to get high, play soccer and eat. We were there to show them the love of Christ and to tell them that God loves them and wants them to be saved. The new rule is if they want to play and eat they have to put their glue away until it’s over. If they choose not to, if they choose to keep their glue then they will not be allowed to play soccer or have food after the game.
Jose Daniel was the one hold out. If you’ve followed the Micah blog at all you are acquainted with him. He’s a very likable young man, very intelligent, and has so much more potential than a life on the streets high on glue. He’s been approached many times to come live in the Micah Project, but each time he chooses the glue over the hope of a future. Friday night he initially gave up his bottle, but just a few minutes later wanted it back. Brian sat him down and explained to him that it was his choice, but if he took his glue back he would not be able to play soccer or eat afterward. Brian was very clear in telling him what the consequences of taking the glue bottle back would be and yet Jose Daniel chose the glue. He spent the next hour on the outside looking in, watching everyone else play soccer, all the while huffing on the glue. When the buzzer went off announcing the end of our hour of field time, everyone filed out to the bleachers and sat down. Dan Paul delivered the message and then the instructions for the new and improved Nightstrike meal were given. They were to be orderly, stand in line without pushing and shoving. We would put a line on the back of their hand when they went through and after everyone had a first plate, they could go back through for more. They were assured that there was enough food for everyone and then they prayed. It was wonderful, nothing like the previous week with the shoving and arguing and crowding around the table. They lined up and were calm and polite as they passed by the food table. No one had to lie and say they hadn’t been fed in order to get seconds. Everyone got plenty to eat, some having seconds and thirds or taking some home to family. Several people sat in chairs while volunteers washed their feet, poured talc into their shoes, and then gave them a new pair of socks. When it was over they all asked for their glue bottles back and after getting them went on their way. It was a great night.
Except for the one. When it came time for the meal Jose Daniel came back inside the area and asked for his plate of food. Those of us at the serving table had been made aware that he had chosen to keep his glue and, therefore, was not to be given food. With anguished eyes and disbelief on his face he asked every server to please give him food. And every server had to tell him he couldn’t have any. He became increasingly desperate, begging to be given a plate, and was repeatedly reminded that he made the choice to keep his glue fully aware of what the consequence would be. Disbelief turned into sorrow and he began to sob heavily as he watched everyone else eat and enjoy the evening. It was heartbreaking.
Then came Brian’s choice. Brian loves Jose Daniel and wants so badly for him to give up his glue and life on the street and choose to enter Micah. Brian knew that Jose Daniel was hungry and because he loves him and had the ability to do so, wanted to feed him. But he couldn’t. He had laid out the choices and the consequences of the choices beforehand. The rest of the kids gave up their glue, conducted themselves appropriately, and were able to play and eat as promised. If Brian gave in to the compassion he felt over Jose Daniels grief and gave him a plate of food, he would have taught the others that he was not a person of his word but a liar; he would have taught the others that they do not have to be accountable for the choices they make in life; he would have taught the others that are above the rules; he would have taught the others that they do not have to respect us or other people that will be in authority over them in life; etc…
And so Brian took Jose Daniel aside and hugged him. He told him he loved him and that God loves him, but that he knew beforehand what the consequence would be if he chose not to give up his glue. He told him why he had to deliver the consequence instead of giving in and feeding him. And then he walked away. It was gut wrenching for him to do it, but he had to.
So many times I see the parallels between being a parent, ministering to others, and how God loves us. He has shown us His majesty in all of creation. His word gives us the “rules” and consequences, and then He gives us the freedom to choose to be obedient or not. And yet we ask how could a loving God mete out the consequences that He does? If He truly loves the world as His word states, then why doesn’t He just let us do what we want? After all, we’re basically “good”, it’s not that big of a deal, and wouldn’t it be easier just to let it go?
God is Holy. He is just. He does not lie. Just as Brian took Jose Daniel aside and told him he loved him but could not feed him because of his choice to keep the glue, when we stand before the throne at the time of judgement (and we all will) God will either reward us with eternal life with Him if we have chosen to accept Christ and follow Him, or mete out the stated consequence of eternal separation for choosing to go our own way. God loves each and every one of us and it is His desire that all would come to salvation through Jesus, but for those that reject the offer He will mete out the stated consequence. And His heart will break.
Thank you to all of you that support us financially and in prayer. Your faithfulness to our Heavenly Father is known and will be rewarded. You’re all getting jewels in your crowns!