Monday, December 23, 2013

My Mary and a Boy Named Jonah

My older daughter's middle name could be Jonah-Who-Wouldn't-Go-to-Ninevah. Her brand of stubbornness runs deep on her father's side, with my father-in-law leading the pack. It skipped my husband entirely, but not so his sister.

Several months ago we were having a conversation, Mary and me, and don't ask me how it started because I can't even remember. I told her about the Biblical mandate for her marriage prospects: a Christian husband or no husband.

Her response?

Was it news to a mother's heart? Not even close. She responded, "That's stupid."

Right then and there, my heart panicked. Oh, Lord. How will I ever usher her into biblical womanhood, with stubbornness leading her heart? Please. Don't let her go her own way and break your heart and mine.

In all fairness to her then-six-year-old self, I should say that the boy across the street is pretty cute in Mary's estimation. The thought of him probably prompted her hasty response.

The story doesn't end with my desperate prayer that night, and every night thereafter.

At our new AWANA is a boy named Jonah. If you named your son this, I'm probably going to offend you with this, but why? Did your son stay in the womb an extra two weeks, prompting you to name him Jonah? Was it because right away, he was stubborn? Don't get me wrong...the name itself, I love. It's adorable. But Jonah wasn't exactly a Biblical hero, so as much as I like the name, I wouldn't want it for an official birth-certificate name.

So, there's this boy in Mary's Sparks class. He's cute. He's sassy. He's Jonah. He thinks my Mary is pretty and he wants to marry her, thank you very much. He told the teacher so and I heard it myself.

At the last AWANA meeting he gave my Mary a Christmas bell necklace to match his own. No, not an engagement ring, but my girl wore it proudly, as if it were one.

The Sunday before, after bedtime prayers, my Mary said, "Mommy, I hope you're not going to be mad about this, but I called Jonah "Sugar" tonight."

Inwardly, I rolled my eyes, but there may have been a slight smile show on the corner of my mouth. Girls are so different from boys, I tell you. They have a matchmaking radar, it seems, rather early, that boys for the most part do. not. share. (This Jonah excluded, apparently.)

I tried to explain what flirting was and that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to call a boy "Sugar". But the concept of flirting was over her head, so I very soon gave up.

My kids have church verses to learn, as well as AWANA verses, and one week Mary had to memorize the Lord's Prayer. She rather liked it, and that's an understatement. She went around for three week straight, saying the Lord's Prayer several times a day, because she could. Verses are her thing; she loves them.

So another night, after bedtime prayers, she told me, "Mommy, I tried to teach Jonah the Lord's Prayer tonight."

"That was sweet of you. How did he do?"

"He gave up. It was too hard."

"Mommy, do you think Jonah is a Christian?"

That sentence right there? It melted me. Here's my little girl, stubborn as all get out, remembering the Biblical mandate for her marriage prospects, and now, a few months later, instead of saying it's stupid, she's taking it to heart. The Holy Spirit is winning. My little girl really likes this boy, but she's showing allegiance to God now, not just to herself.

Parenting is nothing if not a desperate, lengthy, on-going prayer.

I don't agree with the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, but I'm grateful it prompted discipling issues that need to be discussed very early in our children's upbringing. It should be on their radar very early: "God says: marry a Christian, or don't get married".

Just between you and me, the little boy is stubborn, just like my Mary. He was playing with his bell necklace and had the little bell part in his mouth, unattached to the necklace part. Being an ex-classroom teacher, I don't give as much slack as children's church teachers usually do. Many don't discipline and church classes can be a waste of time, due to unresolved behavior issues. I'm kind but firm, because to survive in a classroom day after day, you have to be.

Sadly, two of my children have AWANA classes with no discipline, and the boys' class at our church provides no dicipline for the Goofy Boys Club. (Elementary is not my jurisdiction at church; there's a reason I only signed on to be the Birth-Kinder children's coordinator.)

It's so sad the way upper-elementary boys think they have to act goofy and stupid to fit in. I call it the Goofy Boys Club, and it's getting our nation's boys no where. I suspect the bullies lead it, and the other boys feel they either have to fit in and act goofy themselves, or get bullied. Unfortunately, the bullies lead the schools, and there's precious little school staff can do about it, because they can't follow the kids everywhere, and when a child tattles on a bully, it just gets worse.

My boys don't enjoy going to classes because of the goofiness, but neither do they prefer listening to long sermons in the sanctuary.

Anyway, I was sure any minute the teacher or myself would have to do the Heimlich choking manuvear regarding this bell in Jonah's mouth. I told him having the bell in his mouth was dangerous, and would he please take it out? He did, but only temporarily. It went back in his mouth, so I took it from him, yucky as it was to hold it in my hand while the teacher finished the Sparky story.

Then he began hitting his neighbor with the string of his necklace, and I told him to pay attention to the story. He kept doing it, so I asked for the necklace. He said, "No." I gave him a firm, teacher-type look, and told him he was being disrespectful.

Immediately, he gave it to me, a guilty, sorrowful look on his face.

There was her question, hanging in the air. "Mommy, do you think Jonah is a Christian?"

I thought about the bell and necklace incident, which had happened that night. I thought about the repentent face.

"Yes, I do think he's a Christian, Mary. He's a silly boy, but I could see in his eyes that the Holy Spirit has a hold on him."

This marked the end of the conversation that particular night, but there's more to say.

We all have a long way to go, Mary, in trying to be like Jesus. Jonah is no exception. He might disappoint you with his behavior sometimes, and when he does, remember that the Lord never disappoints. The Lord is always a perfect gentleman. The Lord, and no one else, must be your strength and your song.

Exodus 15:2 The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.


Beth said...

I love your daughter and her spunk. I love to cling to those glimmers of hope that what you are teaching is working its way into their lives. J told me his goal is to do better in math next year -- my prayers are answered :) maybe a bit more when I see it happen.

Christine said...

Yes, it is thrilling to see the teaching become part of who they are. Sometimes that comes so slowly though. :) We so need the Lord to hold us up as we wait and grow in faith. Love to you, Beth.