We were sitting at the lunch table carrying on as usual. Simone and Evelyn in their chairs, Alec in his booster, and I was at the head of the table. We were talking, laughing, and I didn’t notice when Evelyn got up from her seat and for some reason approached Alec and bit one of his dangling feet. He let out a wail that released a gush of tears and sobs as if he’d been betrayed. The atmosphere of the moment changed dramatically. I exclaimed, mostly in shock, and Evelyn too realized what she had done and started crying. We talked it over, she recognized she was too rough with Alec, and that she really hurt her brother (who was still struggling to recover from the surprise attack). As is the custom in our home, when you choose to do something that’s dangerous to someone else or yourself, you get a consequential spank with the rice paddle on the bum. I reminded Evelyn of this and she cried even harder and started swing at me and throwing herself to the floor. Simone was quietly watching this transpire and as I was about to remove Evelyn from the room, I caught a glimpse of Simone’s face staring intently at me. There were tears beading up at the base of her eyelashes. Her unusually serious expression stopped me in my tracks and I looked to her for an explanation. “Mom, I don’t want Evelyn to get a spanking. I’ll take her spanking so she doesn’t have to get one.” She looked a little shocked at the words that came out of her own mouth, but stared at me with genuine resolve that she would follow through. I looked at her, feeling my own emotions welling up to produce tears of wonder at the compassion and courage of this 4 year old before me. I asked Simone to repeat herself to make sure I understood her correctly. She wiped her eyes and with a quivering voice once again said, “I’ll take my sister’s spanking.” I searched her eyes for anything that would betray the sincerity of her words and body, but she was serious and unwavering. Evelyn interrupted the moment of silence, trying to make sense of what was happening. Regaining my attention she said “Mom, I don’t want Simone to spank me! She’s not allowed to spank me, you spank me!” Clearly, she didn’t understand the negotiations and sacrifice Simone was willing to make on her behalf. I tried to explain it, still so moved by this glimpse into Simone’s tender heart and a bit humored at Evelyn’s misunderstanding. I tried to explain the brave kindness that Simone was showing her, but Evelyn just cried harder begging that I please not let Simone spank her. I was so unsure about what to do. Should I honor Simone’s request, let her show her love for her sister in this way, or remain consistent with Evelyn so that she would continue to learn that she must think about and act on what is good and kind? In the end, Evelyn got her consequence and the three of us had a really sweet talk about her willingness to take upon herself the consequence that was due to Evelyn.
I often pray for myself, for my husband, and for my children, that in inevitable moments of darkness, sadness, and injustice God would give our hearts an uninhibited and even reckless love. A love that swells with compassion, compassion that strengthens our hearts toward courage, and courage that takes incalculable risks in order to right the wrong, spare the innocent, and scatter the darkness. I know I’m praying for nothing short of a miracle, knowing my own cowardly heart that too often evaluates every situation first according to how it might threaten my own comfort, safety, and sense of convenience. Sadly I passed this shameful trait on to my own children and see how we all suffer for it. But today I got a glimpse of God’s miraculous work in Simone’s heart. And that gives me courage to keep praying these prayers. I hope we wouldn’t simply talk about what is good, what is just, what is merciful, and what is true, but that we would let God display these attributes of himself in us by stepping forward in courage.