In response to Jennifer Arimborgo’s wonderful Blog post on obedience I wrote, “I have real trouble with obedience…” which made me start wondering why that’s so.
It reminded me of something that happened in first grade – which I honestly haven’t thought about since it happened. It’s a great example of children not being miniature adults…. and the things that can get garbled …. so here’s my story.
As a young child I had 2 beloved stuffed animals, Buffer & Whitey. They were, respectively, a stuffed dog and a stuffed rabbit. I couldn’t have any real pets, so I developed a rich fantasy world in my imagination as I played with my stuffed companions.
When I started first grade the teacher had a show-and-tell day early in the semester. Everyone was supposed to bring something they cared about for show & tell. So I brought Buffer & Whitey. I was told that Buffer & Whitey were 2 things, not 1 thing, so I had to pick one of them for show & tell. I picked Buffer. Whitey, the stuffed rabbit, got whisked away by some grown-up while I was showing & telling about Buffer. I didn’t know what happened to Whitey but a grown-up had promised me they’d take care of him, so that was good enough for me.
Later toward the end of the day a grown-up came to see me from the Office to ask if I had “lost a white dog.”
“No!” I said, terrified that I was in trouble. “I don’t have a white dog! It’s not mine.” I was totally focused on how much trouble I’d be in if somebody thought I had a real dog (which I wasn’t allowed to have) and actually brought it to school.
The lady from the Office asked if I was sure, because somebody had told her it was mine. “No, no, no, not mine!” I protested. She finally shook her head & went back to the Office.
I never saw my stuffed rabbit, Whitey, again. I was mortified that I’d been so careless as to lose track of my precious stuffed rabbit. I thought I’d probably allowed him to get killed (kid-thinking…) because I was so careless. I was horrified that I’d allowed that to happen to my friend, and so ashamed of what a horrible person I was that I never mentioned it to anyone. Ever. I quietly berated and chastised and punished myself over and over for being such a horrible person that I’d let something happen to Whitey & didn’t even know what it was. It became part of my self-identity as an unspeakably horrible, disgusting and irresponsible person.
It wasn’t until decades later — this week actually — that I realized that the Office Lady was probably asking me if the stuffed rabbit she had found was mine (and the answer to that should have been “Yes!!!! Thank you for taking good care of him!!!!”). But when she’d asked me about a “white dog” it never even once occurred to me that maybe she meant my stuffed rabbit. The minute I realized what had happened (i.e., this week) I instantly forgave the Office Lady. This was not her fault.
The next project is to forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault either. And (now that I’m older and know better….) it’s also not possible to murder a stuffed animal, let alone deserve to spend Eternity in Hell for doing it. And even if it were possible, Jesus died for my sins when I accepted Him as my savior, so I have been forgiven for the death of my stuffed rabbit. I know that with my mind. I also know it’s going to take a while for my heart to catch up.
First of all praise God for teaching me this lesson. I am absolutely certain that God used this lesson as part of His plan to help me learn to stop sinning against Him by hating myself.
There are many more lessons here for me to learn. I have the best teacher in the universe: God. And I will learn from Him. But one of the lessons here is a stark reminder that children are not small adults. Their hearts and minds don’t work the same way that adults’ do. All the more reason to be ultra-focused in our interactions with children. If we are not focusing on a growing child, Satan might be.