We all have those childhood and adolescent memories we will never forget. Some good. Some bad. Some silly. Some scary. Some humiliating. Some exhilarating.
But what about those memories that you look back upon and wonder whether a different or better choice would have changed things, for the better or perhaps for the worse.
I often look back and wonder about choices I did or didn't make. I don't necessarily have regrets, but I do replay decisions I've made and ponder whether they were the right ones. Like...
If I hadn't slid down the stairs on a blanket, would I have broken my arm?
If I had spoken up when a neighbor boy was being bullied, would the bully have stopped?
If I had agreed to be the "girlfriend" of that shy little boy in fifth grade, would he still have married me 11 years later?
But there is one particular "If I had..." look back that I replay more often than the others. Bear with me for a few moments and let me take you back to a spring afternoon in 1990.
My little sister Ruth and I were walking home from the bus stop which was a few blocks from our house. I was a spunky little fourth grader and she was a shy little first grader. And we were doing what sisters do when they are on their way home from school: talking, singing, giggling together. We were about halfway home when a big brown car pulled up beside us. It wasn't a car I recognized. A man rolled down his window smiling at us.
"Hi girls," he said. "Your mom asked me to come pick you up and bring you home."
I can remember feeling confused at first. I looked a little closer at him trying to figure out if I knew him. I was sure I didn't.
"It's okay," he said. "I'm a friend of your mom's and she asked me to come get you. She had an emergency and needs me to bring you home."
I looked over at my sister. I could see a spark of fear in her eyes. And I could feel something inside me sounding an alarm.
I quietly said, "No, thank you."
I grabbed my sister's hand and we walked away. And the man in his brown car drove away.
I replay this scene back in my mind quite frequently and I always ask myself the same two questions.
What if I had said "ok" and gotten into that big brown car with that man I didn't know (with my little sister in tow)? I can only imagine the horrors that could have been ours.
And, why did I say no? Sure, my parents had taught me not to talk to strangers. But I was so young and the man was pretty convincing. I could have easily been tricked. But I wasn't. I somehow, even through a cloud of uncertainty, saw the evil I was facing. But how?
Friends, for as many times as I've asked myself this question I have only been able to come up with one answer: God gave me discernment that day to see wrong from right.
Romans 12:9 says to, "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."
Well duh, that's obvious right? But is it really?
How many times have you and I been in situations where our moral vision was cloudy?
Not every moral decision is crystal clear. Sometimes we have to discern wrong from right in a blurry haze of uncertainty.
The same is true for our children. Each one of them will face countless decisions where their moral vision is clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty. And like my fourth grade self, they will want to hate the evil and cling to the good. But they will need God's discernment to do it.
So how do they get it?
1. They pursue a knowledge of God.
In order to hate evil and cling to good, one must know the difference. If our kids want God's discernment in those moments of uncertainty, then they must know God.
2. They pray and listen to the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 6:18 says to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
Romans 8:26 says, "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
John 14:16-17 says that the Spirit of Christ will be our "Counselor" and is "the Spirit of truth."
These are things we must model and teach our kids. They need to know that discerning between evil and good (wrong from right) can be challenging at times, but that God's discernment brings perfect clarity. So, we must help them to know God by teaching them His Word. We must help them know how to pray by modeling and encouraging them to pray. We must help them to listen for and recognize the Spirit's counsel by sharing our own experiences of this.
But most of all we must pray fervently for them. We must beseech God's throne of grace and ask Him to bestow upon each of our kids His perfect discernment.
Because, like me, when my kids look back upon their childhood and adolescent memories, I want them to stand in wonder and gratitude at how God's discernment kept them away from evil.
Will you join me in prayer?
Will you graciously give my kids discernment as they face those decisions in life that are clouded by a blurry haze of uncertainty. As their little hearts seek You, please reveal Yourself to them. May they know You and in turn, may they have discernment to hate evil and cling to good. Give them ears to hear and eyes to recognize Your Spirit's counsel and guidance. And Lord, may they stand in wonder at how Your gift of discernment keeps them away from evil and brings them close to Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.