After moving here, one of the first things that I did was join a Facebook page for military spouses living in Dayton. With over one thousand members living in the area, this page has been an invaluable tool over the last three weeks. Where to find a chiropractor? What’s the best pediatrician’s office that accepts Tricare? Where are some great parks? What’s the deal with all the spiders on my back porch (apparently, I’m not alone in this!)? Any bible studies in the area? Best consignment stores?
You get the idea.
I’ve heard stories about military spouse FB pages that have a crazy amount of drama associated with them (one is appropriately nick-named OSMW – Over Sensative Military Wives : ) but everyone on the Wright-Patterson page seemed friendly and helpful. No complaining. No name-calling. No drama.
That changed one morning after a post went up with the startling news, “Did you know that there is a sex offender living in THIS neighborhood?!” Below the incredulous statement was a link to the Ohio sex offender list with the name and address of a man in our neighborhood.
Within minutes the number of angry or upset posts grew into the double digits. By late afternoon that number had tripled and by that evening the page’s administrator made the decision to take the original post down. Her reasoning? The amount of anger and hatred that had spilled over into the comments made her uncomfortable and she was worried for the safety of the man’s wife and children.
It turned out that this man had only recently been accused and was being charged for a sexual assault that had taken place nearly a decade ago, when he was a teenager and his victim was a child. I don’t say this to diminish his alleged crime (it was terrible) but only to make it clear that there wasn’t evidence of recent criminal activity.
Nonetheless, his address placed this man in close proximity to our family. Unsure of the level of threat that he posed, Paul and I debated over how to handle the information. Should we tell the boys or should we just be extra vigilant? Maybe both? Eventually we did decide to talk to Jack and Brenn. As any parent knows, there is a nervewracking balancing act that takes place whenever you discuss sensitive issues with young children. Overshare, and you run the risk of having them run screaming from every unknown man they see in the neighborhood. Undershare, and they miss the gravity of the situation and all of your admonishing words flit out of their minds like so many whimsical butterflies.
So we talked about people who hurt other people. We talked about strangers and who to trust and who not to trust. We talked about what this man looked like and how to act if they saw him (not to run away screaming). We talked about making wise choices and always checking with parents before doing anything.
But then we switched gears and we talked about sin.
A common phrase in our house is this one; “Sin always hurts.” As young children, they understand this to mean that their disobedience will generally bring them some painful consequences. But even more than what you might see as the face value of the phrase, we have tried to really suss out all the meanings that rest in these three little words.
We want the boys to understand the difference between discipline and the consequences of their actions. Mama and Papa may provide painful discipline, but even if they hide their sin from us, painful consequences will still follow sin. Those consequences belong to a higher law than any parental edict and we as parents are not, in fact, the ones responsible for these consequences. For a believer, these consequences may be God’s loving discipline, a corrective measure meant to either bring us to true repentance (not just a sulky, “I’m sorry”), or the tool that God uses to keep us from further sin (think of Paul’s thorn in the flesh.) For an unbeliever, consequences are part of God’s common grace in restraining sinful men, a megaphone saying that their lives aren’t working. For Jack and Brenn God may let sin hurt solely through mama and papa’s discipline (which takes a whole boatload of wisdom, patience and…lets be honest…creativity) but in reality, sin opens them up to a whole world of hurtful circumstances. We want them to understand that sin, being the tricky, lying thing that it is, will tell them that everything will be ok, that they will be better off and that they will be happy if they do this thing (Gensis 3 replays over and over in our lives!). But sin lies. So we tell them that in the end, your sin will hurt you. It breaks trust. Causes sadness. Causes guilt. Denies you blessings. Destroys beauty. Hurts relationships. (On occasion, it’s even broken favorite toys!) We tell them that even if you don’t feel the hurt for a while (Mama and Papa might not find out!) that painful consequence always comes in the end. And this is truth for all of us. There has never been a successful escape either from God’s disciplining love or God’s retributive wrath (Heb 12:5–6; Rom 2:4–5). Just as sins tells sneaky lies to convince us to follow it, sin finds sneaky ways to corrode our hearts, minds and relationships. In our home, we stress that admitting to sin, confessing it and asking for forgiveness is the fastest and best way deal with sin (and that guilty feeling that comes with it). Letting it fester never turns out well.
But yes. Sin hurts. Always. Sometimes, in my rush to convince the boys (and myself) of the amazing nature of God’s grace and constant affection (which I talked about in this post) I might gloss over this painful sort of love. What I should emphasize is that yes, God’s love never changes and that the flood of grace which pours over my life will never dry up. But that same grace may not mitigate the painful discipline/consequences caused by my choice to defy God’s exhortations.
So when we talked to Jack and Brenn about the man who lives nearby, we also talked about the way his sin was hurting him, hurting his wife and hurting his son. Maybe that woman didn’t know about this situation when she married him. Maybe his son has only ever known his dad to be a kind and loving man. But all that has changed now. Now they have to face a neighborhood full of angry, vengeful women, hell-bent on kicking them out of the neighborhood (or at least, burning them in effigy). Sin hurts. It hurt him and his victim ten years ago (and her family and his family) and now it is hurting his wife and child today. Maybe he never wanted that to happen, but sin hurts. Often in ways that we can’t control.
I want my boys to understand this concept. Well, really, I want them to understand both concepts. Our sin will never change God’s feelings towards us, his grace will never leave us, our failings can not change our standing as God’s beloved children. But sin will still hurt us and the people we love if we continually choose to believe its lies. I see the results of this truth each day as I look at the news, listen to the radio and scroll through facebook. I see the publicly painful consequences for people whose secret Ashley Madison accounts were exposed or for college presidents who broke faith with their family and followers. Sin is hurting people!
Frankly, I see this truth when I look in the mirror. This is the truth that I preach to myself in moments when I want to lose my temper and say mean, biting things to my husband and children. Sin hurts. If I keep sinning, God is too loving to let me escape the consequential discipline. This is the truth that I preach to myself when I want to spread gossip. Sin hurts. There will be consequences. This is the truth that I preach to myself when I want to lie, want to complain, want to manipulate or want to give in to whatever lie sounds so true at the moment. God’s future grace is my comfort, his gospel love my motivation, and his disciplining love my restraint. I have to cling to the faith that says, “I believe that what God said is true for me RIGHT NOW.” And I have to look for that way of escape that God promised would accompany each temptation.
Paul Tripp says it like this,
“I have no right to live “according to the sinful nature” any longer. This denies the gospel and my identity as a child of God. I can never say, “I don’t want to;” “I would if I could;” “It’s too hard;” or “It’s okay, because I am forgiven.” The only proper response to the comfort of the gospel is to accept its call and follow Christ in obedience.”
Normally I tell my boys that their sin might result in a loss of computer privileges, an early bedtime or maybe a bunch of extra chores. However, during this particular conversation I told them that someday, a future sin might result in a group of angry women trolling them on social media, a fate that I’m not sure put the fear of God in their hearts.
So I said that in jail you can’t play video games, and I think that this particular warning did the trick ; )
Note: This man does not live directly next to us. He is in this neighborhood and as far as I know, he is not a violent offender or a repeat offender. I don’t know much about his case except that it is regarding a crime committed a decade ago. If convicted, I trust that he will serve a jail sentence and be discharged from the Air Force. I certainly don’t want to mitigate the severity of his past behaviors just because he seems to be different now. We are paying close attention to our children and we have repeated our warnings numerous times. Honestly though, there is much more that I DON’T know about my neighbors than what I DO know about this one man. This is life. I’m thankful for guardian angels.