Sitting in my office right now is a young child, three years old. He's adorable, polite, much loved and in a lot of trouble right now. That's why he is sitting on my couch. For our Children's Day Out program, "Pastor Christy's Couch" is the worst of punishments. All other means of gentle correction have failed and the young one has chosen to continue in behaviors that are problematic to the health of the larger classroom and to his own development.
The child on the pastor's couch has no toys, nothing to distract or do, except to sit and, one would hope, to reflect on the behavior that brought them there. Now, this particular child has begun to sing to himself, songs about God he has learned in our program. I listen to him singing "Here I am to help you, you are my best friend," and I can't keep myself from smiling.
All the children who make their way here are really charmers. They are creative and sweet and I love them. I am also the power figure in this particular disciplinary situation and work very hard not to coddle them.
"Old Macdonald had a farm" is now coming from his mouth. I periodically glance his way to make sure he has not left the couch, but do not interact with him otherwise. By the way, did you know that Old MacDonald had a dinosaur and a frog?
He just started bouncing on the couch, so it was necessary to remind him that he did not have the privilege. He was in trouble. He quickly stops and lies down, and now is whispering the song instead of singing out loud.
Gentle correction. Firm boundaries. Without these things, a child cannot grow into a responsible adult. God must do the same with us.
Gentle correction: often a question that hits hard from someone we trust; a sense in our spirit that something is just wrong; the withdrawal of a friend or loved one who will no longer tolerate our behaviors; an event that shakes us up and gives us impetus to re-evaluate who we are and what we are doing with our lives; a time of reading Holy Scripture where we see that our lives really don't line up well with the call to love God and to love our neighbors with all our hearts, our minds, our strengths, and our spirits.
I suspect this young one will spend most of the morning on the couch. It will be a trial for both of us. I will learn from him. I hope he will also learn. God is patient, and so am I. But the patience of God does expect resulting repentance. So does mine.