A 5-year-old lesson in Idolatry

The boys have been saving change for months, so we finally took their treasure to the bank. After talking through their “budget” (giving, spending, depositing), we drove to Five Below so they could get their one thing. Never did I realize how this action would pan out in the next 24 hours…

At first, both boys chose remote control cars, but with some looking around, the oldest deterred and got a basketball set for his room. This was an awesome gift to him because he had given his away to charity a few months ago (even though last week, he remarked… “I didn’t REALLY mean to give it away, mommy. I was pretending to give it away” Riiiiiight). From the time it got on the closet door, our oldest was doing every spin and trick move he could physical manipulate in making shots. I mean, he was literally sweating! This comes as no surprise though because he’s always been naturally athletic, since catching regular size footballs at age 2. We’ve always discussed the importance of giving back to God the gifts we have and making sure we focus more on God than our abilities and gifts. Yet, as parents, we know that the only way some lessons really stick are when they have to be learned the hard way.

The next morning, our oldest explained that he was “too tired” to do much of anything – get dressed, schoolwork, be nice to his brothers (???). He was just WAY off the grid in all areas. After school, we all went outside to ride bikes, of which he declined, but didn’t have the option to stay inside. As I got the other two situated, our oldest made the bold decision to go back inside and play with what? His new, indoor basketball set (guess he wasn’t THAT tired). My husband, working from home, walks outside with our oldest in front of him, mouthing, “You let him stay inside?” I explained our morning and told him I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I was NOT happy.

By now, for some of you, you would say “Giiiiirl, he should’ve got a whoopin RIGHT THEN!!” Others of you might say, “Awe, he’s only a kid and he DID give his other set away.” For me, I was mad, yes!, but mostly GRIEVED. As our oldest stood at a distance awaiting my response, I walked away asking God, “How am I supposed to handle this the RIGHT way? What is going on?? I’M SO… ASAKDFJALKDJF” He answered – “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Bam. Loud as a gun that scatters resting birds.

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The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” Biblically, as defined by gotquestions.com, “idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God [and His character].” In further examining even my own heart, something or someone has become an idol when its absence, presence or state of being changes one’s disposition contrary to the character of God. I allowed God to show me that our oldest loved playing basketball/his new toy SO much that he was willing to rebel against the rules and authority set over him (God & parents) and deemed it was more important than being kind to his brothers, doing his best within his responsibilities, having the right attitude, etc. Idols have to be removed. They have to crumble.

I talked to our oldest sternly about his actions that morning and what I had seen – that he loved something so much that not playing with it changed his entire attitude and behavior. No, the toy wasn’t bad and yes, he has a natural ability to play and should enjoy it, but I explained to him that it should never be enjoyed in front of or before God. His consequence? Giving basketball up for a couple of days as well as other things. Crying, he relinquished his treasure to the captain (daddy) and returned outside. I was going to leave it at that, but I couldn’t.

FullSizeRender (2)**Insert: I’ve heard coaches and parents and players say, “_____ is your/my life” “You/I don’t focus on anything else but ____.” “_____ is all that matters.” As one who seeks to aim her arrows in the right direction, I cannot agree with these statements because they completely deter the mark from eternity to a wordly, temporary pleasure. I know I will be challenged on this as our son(s) become involved with teams/leagues. I’m not saying our sons won’t ever play; my husband & I are praying now that our priorities stay in check – that we lead ours sons in ways where they do everything with an eternal perspective.

**Back to the story 🙂 … Disciplining our children, as believing parents, must come with love and always point to Jesus. We can be angry, grieved, WHATEVER, but how we respond and act will 1) forever be etched in their memory bank, 2) be what they duplicate as parents and 3) lay the foundation of how they view God’s discipline.

I asked our silently, pouting son to come to me and we talked again. I asked him if he understood what we talked about. He said he did (with some questions & response), so we prayed together. He asked Jesus to help him love Him more than the things he has or gets. I guided him in apologizing to God and asking Him to help him remember what was the MOST important thing: the Giver of the gifts. Although I hated seeing our son process what appeared to be a painful realization (because he loves God AND basketball), I knew in my heart that this was the right thing to do. I was at peace, and eventually, so was our son as the day moved on.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

We as parents, due to just being tired of repeating ourselves about the same things, may want to ignore certain behaviors. Sometimes, we just focus on THE behavior but without asking God, “What the heck is going on with this person you gave me???” 🙂 When we seek Him, He promises to be found, showing us where the ROOT of the issue is, which often lies in the battlefield of the heart, mind and soul. My husband and I have come up with the slogan, “Biblical parenting is NOT for punks” because we are realizing what training our children “in the way they should go” means, or we’re starting to. It’s not simply making them say their prayers, reading the Bible, handling their behaviors, having them dot their i’s and cross their t’s. It’s a war as God’s ambassador for their lives to be aimed in loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s ACTIVE, not passive. UNCOMFORTABLE, not conforming. GRITTY, not smooth. IT. IS. WORK! Not just with the kids’ hearts, but our own.

I’m thankful for this hard moment because as God spoke about our son’s heart, He (as usual) pointed at the issues in my own heart. My behaviors. My idols. Things I thought were done with but really were not. And to think… it took a 5-year-old’s hard lesson in idolatry in order for God to show me loud and clear about my own. Maybe I’m not as “grown” as I think I am. 😉


2 thoughts on “A 5-year-old lesson in Idolatry

  1. Thank you for reading it! I’m trying to always keep the end goal in mind but boy! I’m realizing how crucial the training now is. Of course, not every moment calls for “a lesson to be learned” (Referees don’t work full-time!), but I try to catch the important ones. Pray for us as we pray for you & other parents in the body of Christ!😉

  2. Esther, I really enjoyed this post. I think you’re right that most people would pass your son’s behavior off as typical 5-year-old behavior and not something deeper and spiritual. Thanks for sharing this insight and for doing it in a way that was enjoyable to read. 😊 Kudos to you and your husband on your intentional, active, gritty, and Word-based parenting style!

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