Dear “Real” Christian Man,
So I’m feeling really convicted today. I hate when that happens. Especially when it involves me screwing up as a father.
My kids love Panera Bread. I do too. On almost every weekend I have the kids with me, we have lunch either Saturday or Sunday at Panera. It’s pretty good food and fairly inexpensive. I can usually get out of there spending about $30 for all four of us….at least until recently. I don’t have many pet peeves in life (incompetence, double talking, arrogance, and victim mentality), but I have to tell you I HATE paying for soft drinks at restaurants. Come on, $2.70 for a soda?! What’s the markup on that?! So yes, this aggravates me. So what I do is instead of paying for drinks for all four of us (which would add about $12 to our bill), I ask for (4) small cups for “water”. That’s free. Then when I get the cups I tell the kids to get whatever they want. It’s not hurting anything right? Panera is a HUGE corporation. Surely a few free cups of soda will not kill their bottom line right? Or maybe there’s a bigger lesson to be learned here? I was about to learn this lesson.
If you’ve been going to church for a significant amount of time, no doubt that at some point you’ve heard preachings on Ephesians 4. This chapter of the Bible is truly where the rubber meets the road. I love all of the book of Ephesians and for me, Chapter 4 is something really special. One particular Sunday, the Pastor at the church I’ve been attending was doing a message on Ephesians 4. Now at this church, my two younger children go to their Sunday school class and my older child sits with me in the regular service. The message was based on Ephesians 4:28….don’t steal. Now I’ve heard preachings on this before and the usual example I’ve heard used is about the taking of company office supplies. It’s an easy mark as I’m sure most of us (including myself) are guilty of doing this. I say this as I’m staring at one of the pens I’m sure I brought home from the office.
Truth is, I was kind of sitting there half listening with the “heard this, been there, done that” attitude going through my head. It wasn’t that the message was boring or irrelevant, I guess my mind just wasn’t completely in the receiving mood this day. The service ended, I grabbed my little guys from Sunday school and off we went to the promised lunch at Panera. We did the usual thing, ordered the food and I asked for the (4) cups for “water”. When we picked out our booth and were waiting for the food to come, I said to the kids, “ok, go get what you want.” It was then I heard my 8 year old son say, “we’re getting water because if we get soda that’s stealing.” Then my older daughter said, “right, that is stealing.” I was caught completely off guard. I didn’t say anything. I just watched them go get water for themselves and for their little brother. The food came, we ate, and went home with me still not saying a word about this. I’m not sure if i was embarrassed, ashamed, or what. I actually didn’t say anything until I saw the kids again on Wednesday. I didn’t mention I’m divorced and have my kids every other weekend and every Wednesday.
I thought about what happened on Monday and Tuesday and finally when I was with them on Wednesday I brought it up. What I didn’t know is the teaching the kids have in Sunday school often follows what is being taught in the main service. So my little one’s heard about the stealing too. I guess sometimes I forget how smart an 8 year old can be. I didn’t realize he would put together what he was taught that day to what his Dad had been doing with him at Panera for years. I was stealing and I was teaching them to do the same. Harmless or not, it is wrong. And actually, it’s not harmless. I’ve been giving them the example that this is OK to do, so why not something else? And what exactly would I say someday if one of them got picked up for shoplifting?
I beat myself up a lot about this for a few days. I hate when I mess up as a dad and I’m really good at messing up. It’s the human in me I guess. There’s no instruction book for raising kids….actually there is, but most don’t look at the bible as parenting guide. After this experience I’ll be looking for a lot more of the parental instructions I so desperately need.
After talking about it with my kids, I told them how proud I was of them for recognizing it was wrong and I apologized to them for making the mistake over and over and I asked they forgive me. They did of course…I mean, to them I might as well be Superman and those are big shoes to fill. Those are shoes that I sometimes feel I am not worthy to be wearing at all. I have the most amazing kids and in them I begin to understand just how much God loves me. Other than the work on the cross, He’s given me the best gift a man could ever ask for. And I miss them all the time.
This wasn’t my first mistake with them and I’m sure it won’t be my last. I have yet to hear the “I hate you” come out of any of their mouths. I hope I never do. By no means am I ready to stop sneaking candy or snacks into the movie theater, but I guess I should probably stop eating grapes at the grocery store!