Of all the things we want our kids to know before we send them out into the world, there is one we feel is at the forefront. That is – we want our kids to know how much they are loved by God and by us, unconditionally.
We are a family that says, “I love you” and we show it through hugs and affection all the time. We have found it’s easiest for our kids to feel loved and valued by us when things are going well and they are making great decisions. It’s when they mess up that we feel it’s especially important to reiterate our devotion to them, even as we talk through the situation and consequences. We’ve found a way to verbalize this with a phrase we’ve had to use many times in tough moments. That phrase is, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision.” That right away reminds them they cannot earn our love and they cannot lose it, based upon what they do.
The first time I remember coming up with this phrase was when my son Ethan was in second grade. He came home one afternoon with a note from his teacher saying he had called a little girl in his class a name, and not just any girl… but a girl who, as it turned out – lived two doors down and attends our church. For a hot second, I thought, “Geez, why couldn’t it be someone who doesn’t go to our church? This is embarrassing… we work at church and are heavily involved there…” Oh my, the places our minds can go in moments like that! Our kids keep us humble, that’s for sure!
As I asked more questions, he explained he didn’t think he was the only one at fault. She had pushed his buttons until he reacted. Regardless of who started it, I explained that the second he called her a name he was wrong and would need to make amends. It was at that moment in the conversations that the now often used phrase was birthed. I said, “I love you as much right now as I loved you before you made this poor decision, and because I love you I am going to walk with you to her house so you can apologize and ask her forgiveness.” He was beside himself. He said, “What if her whole family comes to the door and I have to apologize in front of her mom, dad, and brother!?” I put my arm around him and said, “If that’s what we have to do then that’s what we’ll do. I’ll be by your side the whole time; you won’t have to do this alone.”
So we walked over to her house. Her whole family did come to the door and Ethan apologized. They were gracious and forgiving and he scored point’s big time by making amends.
That day, Ethan learned a few valuable lessons. The first, He learned he is loved no matter what, just as it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He also learned he never has to walk through anything alone. He saw God’s love in action through me – just as I stood by his side, God stands by our side when we make poor decisions and have to walk through the tough consequences of our actions. In love, He never abandons us in those moments, but sees us through. Ethan also had an opportunity through the experience to walk out our family mission statement, which is, “We, the O’Donnell’s, live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our everyday lives.” In that moment, he unveiled God’s love by making amends. He glorified Him by having the character to apologize when he messed up and by valuing the little girl’s feelings.
Just as Romans 8 says above, there is truly nothing that can ever separate us from the love of God. If you aren’t aware of just how much God loves you, I pray this story will give you a greater glimpse of how very special you are to your Heavenly Father! He loves you as much right now as the day you were born. You are special to Him, loved unconditionally.
P.S. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will cover the second key thing we feel our kids need to know to be successful in life.