“I have a good security guard in my head,” nine-year-old Brennan told me recently as we walked into Subway together, just the two of us.
“Really?” I responded. “That’s interesting.”
“Yep,” he continued, “He tells me not to say bad things.”
“Well, that’s good,” I responded. “It’s nice that you have your own little security guard reminding you of that.”
“I also have a bad security guard in my head,” Brennan informed me. “He likes to say bad words.”
It took every restraint within me not to laugh; he was speaking with such sincerity.
Fast forward a few days. It was Tuesday morning and I was sitting with Brennan in the living room after Kiersten and Micah had left for school.
“Mom,” Brennan broached, “I called you sh@* in my head last night because I was mad at you.”
Um…gulp…I wasn’t expecting that (again, stifle the laughter, Kim)! He had been pretty mad at me the night before – first for not letting him watch t.v. and then for reprimanding him for not being ready for bed after he had been given plenty of time to be ready and in bed.
I could have gotten mad at him for even thinking that word. Instead, I decided to connect with him on what he was really telling me.
“You were pretty mad, weren’t you, Buddy?” I responded gently as I pulled him in for a hug. He nodded his head.
“Thanks for telling me how you felt. I’m glad you told me.” We embraced and I kissed him. His little body relaxed a bit as he returned my hug.
“That’s good, though, that you kept that word in your head,” I said with a smile, “It would definitely have been inappropriate for you to say that out loud. But I’m glad you told me about it now.”
Fast forward a few more days. It’s before school and Brennan is singing a song:
Everybody tries to tell you what to do… but I just listen to what God says…
“Where did you learn that song?” I inquired. It was actually kind of catchy, but I had never heard it before.
“I made it up,” he said.
“Wow!” I replied, “Can I hear it again?”
With a smile on his face, he sang it again. Pleased, I think, by my response.
I just love this kid. His transparency is inspiring to me as a person. His willingness to admit his ugly thoughts is challenging and convicting. His little heart, that even though he struggles with bad thoughts and bad words, feels the freedom to sing out praises to God. And not for an audience. He was singing just because.
I don’t think we have to tell very bad thought that we have, but I believe it’s important to admit we struggle. And I think it’s equally important to recognize that even though we mess up, we still have good within us. We sometimes think bad thoughts, yet we can still sing praises to God. That’s not hypocritical. It’s real.
In fact, it would be more hypocritical to pretend like we have it all together. To only share the good thoughts. To only sing praises and only tell about the times that we made good choices.
I want to be more like Brennan. I want to be aware of both the bad and the good within me. I want to confess and admit those things that I know were wrong, when appropriate. I want to know that I am still loved when I do – not judged. I want to be happy when my conscious (or, God’s still small voice?) keeps me in check and helps me not to do bad things. I want to sing praises because I love Him, not as a way to look good, or a way to cover up the bad. But to praise Him just because that’s something within me.
My prayer for Brennan (and for all my children!) is that they will come to me (and/or Randy) with the realness of who they are. That they will not be afraid to be vulnerable and admit their mistakes or even share their darkest thoughts. That they will know that my love for them does not stem from them being good or obedient or making all the right choices. I want those things for them because I want what is best for them. I want them to know that I will love them in the midst of the messiness of this life. Randy and I can handle their ugliness.
Because the minute that they feel we are unsafe is the minute that the bad will begin to harm them. They’ll hide the bad. The bad might begin to consume them. They might find other places to express their bad and act out on it. They’ll only show us what they think we want to see.
This life isn’t about being good. This life is going to be hard. None of us is immune.
I want my kids to know that. And to know that that is why God is here. To be with us through it all. I want them to know that to be a Christian is to be real, not perfect.