Sometimes our children do something – some little thing that really isn’t such a big deal. Maybe they were unkind to a sibling, but with just that little extra edge that tells you they have a deeper issue afoot. Sometimes it is in their eyes when they don’t apologize very sincerely. Sometimes it is that things just don’t seem all that great. This is what my husband calls the fudge ribbon of sin. Like the fudge in a new carton of ice cream, you may see only one little thin stripe of fudginess across the top, but the stuff is really all the way through.
I love this image because it reminds me of how I ought to pursue the problems that our children are having. Think of someone scooping ice cream: those little tiny scrapes off the top are as far away from the manifestation of fudge as they can get. Every time they scoop, they breathe a sigh of relief that it came out vanilla. They are scared of the fudge ribbon. They want to leave it alone, buried in the heart of their child. This is what is happening when you see a parent catering to the demands of a difficult child rather than just barging on through and dealing with the shocking results. But why do we do this? We know that human kind is not vanilla ice cream. We are a race of moose track fudge bomb ice cream. Our calling as faithful parents is to shovel that ice cream out – hot on the trail of the major fudge blob that we know is lurking down in the parts of the carton that get ice cream on your forearms.( I’d like to recommend that last sentence as a great one to take out of context.)
Sin is not something to fear – dealing with it is the way to life, and growth, and maturity. It will be there, no matter what. As a parent, you should make sure that you are tracking things down. I am not saying that if you suspect a child of having a hard time you should open up a great inquisition on them, but you should get that problem onto your radar. Start looking for things to draw it out – try to sneak up on it from another angle.
Lying is a great example, because lying is the kind of sin that can stay a secret. It can get into their hearts and just make things generally yucky until they get it right or forget about it. Sometimes I will discover that someone has lied well after the fact. Usually they are all asleep in their beds, and I will find something that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that child X lied. Straight up the middle falsehood. But it might be no big whoop. It might have been about something so trivial that I have forgotten all about it myself in a few minutes. But that, right there, is fudge ribbon.
I have found that having four children old enough to lie encourages them all to do so. It turns out that lying can actually keep Mom from finding out what really happened. There are enough people at this house who could have done it, that lying might actually throw me off the trail for long enough that they can all move on. Industriously tracking the sin down and dealing with it should not include you raging around the house with a paddle. Sometimes, when you only suspect a lie, you should try to draw it out. Talk to you child – be a counselor. Do not become the enemy that can only be escaped through yet more lies.
We recently had a bit of a situation which led us to believe that there were a few layers of minor lies that had clogged up our system. I have absolutely no memory of what it was all about, but I remember realizing that our children did not think lying was too bad. Technically speaking, they were finding it handy – a generally good tactic. They knew that lying was wrong – but it was clearly only because Mom and Dad said so. So we had a little bit of a group fudge dig, and this is what we came up with.
I talked to our girls about uniforms – team clothing. We talked about how lies are like clothing, but they are uniforms. The act of lying is the act of clothing yourself in the wrong team’s uniforms. Lies are the uniform of God’s enemies. I told them that even when Mom or Dad don’t know about it, God sees that they are putting on the clothes of His enemies, and He hates it. We talked about how these clothes stick, and that the only way out of them is repentance.
This little image worked really well for us, because the thought of a lie wrapping onto you and not coming off was seriously repellent. It also captures the nature of ongoing guilt. You can get into it all by yourself, but not out of it. God sees it. You are wearing it in front of Him. Even if everyone else doesn’t know (for sure) that you are playing for the other team, God does. We talked a bit about what the other team is like – those uniforms are on the people who kill babies, who lie to children, and who are so selfish that their hearts become like Gollum’s. In other words, it is not the team you want to join. More importantly, it is a team that you may not join. You are baptized – you are clothed in the truth. There is no going back on that – the only option is repentance.