Late at night I get a text I hate to read.
'Since your children were at our house last night, my son has been missing some of his favorite valuables. Can you ask your kids about It? '
This isn't the first time we've had a similar run in. The last issue was never completely solved because no one would own up, and no one wants to accuse the innocent..
I pray with a heavy heart. "God please let these objects show up and the guilty one come forward. Let there be no gap in this relationship and give me wisdom in how to deal with this."
Then, I fall asleep.
Two days later I am sitting down to write up a menu at 9am and my boys come bursting in the door. ''Look!! We were pretending to be pirates. We were digging in the yard, and we found hidden treasure!! Our friend has one just like it! Maybe there's more!''
If I would have been thinking, I would have said.''Wow! How exciting! Yes, go find more and let me see!' '
But, it suddenly dawns on me I had totally forgotten the text two days ago. God is answering my prayer. I blurt out, ''Your friend has been missing this!'' and blow my cover.
''He has? '' they ask. ''We didn't take his. This is different!''
''Mmhmmm. Why don't you go find the rest and bring it to me?''
''We don't know if there is more. But we can look.'"
Of course, they're on the defense now. They can't find more or they'll be guilty.
I pray again. The boys start making excuses. "Maybe one of our sisters took it and brought it home for us to find and get us in trouble."
Unlikely, I think. I'm pretty sure right off the bat I know who's at fault, but I want them to come clean, take responsibility and not do it again! And I could be wrong.
Little sisters give me blank stares. "What is that?" they ask, begging to see.
Older sister says, "I saw the boys' playing with them while we were there, but I never touched them. I played with my own friends. Why? "
She says no, the big girls didn't tease and pretend to steal the items as brothers had said happened.
I am deeply disappointed. We have liars. And thieves. "God help. Please, do a miracle and transform hearts with truth, conviction, grace and new beginnings."
We go through out the day. I'm constantly praying for wisdom. I text Daddy and brief him on the developments. We plan a family meeting. We know there are still objects missing, culprit is lieing and something has to happen. By now it is afternoon.
Suddenly I get an inspiration. ''What would you do if I said I'd give $5 to whoever could bring me more 'treasure'?" I am addressing all six kids.
They take off running, and one knows right where to search. He shares with his brother and they come triumphantly back.
A repeat of this exercise brings up nothing new. Perhaps we have gathered all the evidence.
"Can we have our five dollars now?"
More inspiration. I flip the story reversing rolls of friends and ask our kids how they would feel and what they would like, if they were on the other side of the story.
They respond well.
"I'd want my things back."
"I wouldn't really want to play with them anymore.''
"I'd want an apology."
"I'd be frustrated."
I go to my purse and pull out money. "I will give this to you." Their eyes light up. "But, you will use it to buy your friend a gift. You will deliver it with the return of their treasures and an apology."
Five of them respond "All of us, or the one who did it?"
One is silent with tears in their eyes.
"I would really like for the one of you who is responsible to do it. But, if they are not going to tell us who they are, then all of you will. However, after we deliver this, as your friend is going out of town and cannot wait another day for this, we will not go anywhere or invite anyone over until we do have a confession and forgiveness. That means the grocery shopping we were going to do tonight is canceled until further notice. We will eat what is in the house, like it or not, and when it's gone we'll go hungry. We are children of God. We don't steal and lie. If we have, we confess and make it right and change our ways. When we confess there is forgiveness and we are filled with mercy. "
They all stare at me. I can see they want to be believed, and are ready to be truthful, but afraid to step out publicly. I decide to provide a private option.
"We are now going to take twenty minutes of silence and prayer. We will think about all that has happened and that we have talked about. You will each take a paper. "I quickly tear six papers and draw a smiley face, a sad face and their name on each. "If your heart is happy because you are not responsible, circle the smile. If you are sad and want to admit you did it. Circle the frown so we can clear this up and ask forgiveness.'' I do this because not everyone can read and write yet. "You can turn in your papers when the timer goes off. Whoever did not do it, we are going to practice grace and forgiveness. We are going to remember it takes a lot to admit when we are wrong. We are not going to tease and accuse. Does everyone understand."
I pray Oh God. Let this be the end of it. Let them be truthful. Speak to their hearts and let them desire truth in the inner parts. May this be a life long lesson right now. Holy Spirit do a work only you can so our children don't develope habits of deception. And teach us to be kind, understanding and full of grace when others ask for forgiveness. "
Sure enough, papers return. Five smiles and one frown.
He says, "I was playing with them in my pocket while we were there and forgot and brought them home. I should have brought them to you right away, but I didn't. I wanted to play with them more and it got carried away. I'm sorry."
How true that is with many things. Just a little taste usually ends in eating too much. Another lesson.
We hug. It's now early evening. We go shopping. We make deliveries and say we're sorry. We realize this wasn't as hard as we thought. And it feels good to be clean. Praise God.