From the start, behavior was challenging. A van full of children with energy and looking for a release. Adding fuel to this combustible are three approaching birthdays where every trip to a store is filled with potential promise, particularly as two of these children have never had a proper birthday party in their short and trauma filled lives. The trip was hectic, with three of the four children dancing around the cart, running up and down aisles, pining for treats, cereals, toys, etc. The youngest was placed firmly in the seat of the cart as we have learned long ago that his short legs quickly find trouble when left to wander. After a marathon gauntlet of "NO, put that back! NO, we're not getting that. NO, TAKE THAT OUT OF THE CART!" my bride was ready to check out and proceeded to get into one of the lengthy lines.
It was then she noted that of all of our children the youngest, who is normally a healthy contributor to our chaos, was uncharacteristically quiet. As spider-sense tingled, instinct kicked in and she began to search our young one. First his face, then his body, then his... chocolate covered hands? Her investigation yielded a four year old boy who had stolen his first candy bar and was quietly sitting on his unwrapped pilfering breaking off piece-after-piece unnoticed and putting them into his mouth to melt away when mother wasn't looking. But no matter how good he was, the evidence on his hands and clothing still indicted. Obviously shock was a bit of a reaction, along with chastisement and some ire as the candy bar was taken from him and given to the cashier to throw away as my bride apologetically paid for it. He could not, after all, be permitted to continue enjoying the fruit of his crime.
My bride then exited the store, loaded the children into the van and then proceeded to load the groceries into the rear of the vehicle. When she returned to the front of the van after depositing the cart, she found a four-year old boy crying hysterically. As it turns out, his siblings had convinced him that his crime was, in fact, a severe crime demanding severe punishment and that he would be shortly visited by the police and hauled away to jail. One of my daughters even taunted "Oh, hear that? Sounds like the sirens are getting closer - those are for you. You're going to jail." Another joined in "You won't like it either, I know what it's like!" My bride had to console him that he was not, in fact, going to jail, that no one was going to take him, that even though he had done something wrong - the candy bar had been paid for, and that the price and penalty for his crime had been taken care of. He started to calm with this realization. Then my bride informed our young one that he would still have to "talk to daddy tonight when he gets home". With this, our youngest started to wail afresh with renewed outbursts of anguish.
"NOOO, I DON'T WANNA TALK TO DADDY! JUST SEND ME TO JAIL!!!"
When my bride recounted the above to me, laughter was the obvious response. But so was a twinge of sadness in that I questioned what would make a small boy rather go to jail than talk to his father who loves him? Days later, this has created for me an illustration worthy of self-examination.
How often have I missed it, missed God's calling, missed His direction or directive for my life and known it? How often has disobedience come into play in my life or maybe it is simply those areas that I feel the tug to relinquish but I hold onto tightly refusing to let go? How often are we imprisoned by our unwillingness to approach Him with the things that keep us from self-harm, potential developed, created plan perfected? Have you ever, in your heart, desired your jail, your prison, your lines in the sand over facing the truth and admonitions of "Daddy"?
We can't play games with this Father or His Word for He cuts away falsehoods and requires reaction to truth as stated;
"For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power making it active, operative, energizing, and effective; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and the immortal spirit, and of joints and marrow of the deepest parts of our nature, exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12 AMP
Our reaction? We either come into line with this Word and become changed or we stay imprisoned in ourselves, staying blinded, muted, and dulled for this existence. God wants to unlock and free every part of His plan for our lives through us which will bring us ultimate purpose, unlocking our fullest potential and bring Him ultimate glory. It is for this we were created - to be vessels of His love overflowing. And when we stumble, repentance is a whispered breath away; the path to freedom and restoration. There may be those telling us that our trespasses are too severe, perhaps we convince ourselves that the stain of our actions have made us permanently unworthy. There will always be people judging us, condemning others but like my son, we each are privileged to know that our debt has been paid, our crimes have been accounted for, but we still have a responsibility to approach the Father. If we shy from this, if we attempt our own path of glorification and satisfaction, we are, in effect preferring a prison over a parent.