A few months ago we had a night of prayer, praise and testimonies with our church. It was a tremendously encouraging time to seek God together, be reminded of his goodness and faithfulness and to celebrate what he has been doing in our lives. Children were a part of this service and so as our worship pastor extended an invitation for any others to share a testimony, my 5 year-old daughter Zoe jumped up and indicated that she had a word to share with the congregation.
Now I love my daughter. Her smile and laugh delight my heart and her creativity is a source of pride and joy to me. She is also not shy and is a bit of a ham who loves to elicit laughter from people. So it was with a fairly high degree of nervousness that I watched her approach the microphone. She started by sharing with the group that she wasn't sure what were going to have for dinner, which I took to be a prayer request. She then transitioned to confession by saying "Sometimes I'm naughty." This drew a hearty chuckle from the assembly and called to my mind the phrase "out of the mouths of babes".
Before I could feel too much pride in my daughter's awareness of, and honesty about, her sin, she followed it by saying "Well...let me rephrase that." I don't recall exactly what she said after that but it somehow shifted guilt for her naughtiness away from her. Aside from being a memorable and endearing moment for me as a father, it reminded me that children are often far more honest about things than we are. It usually shows up in ways that make the rest of us squirm. But I realized that I am the same way. I want to limit the reality of my sinfulness by saying "sometimes" and by using words like "naughty" that make it seem not quite so bad. I feel the satisfaction of partial confession, knowing that that can be seen as an admirable thing. Even then, I usually feel the urge to "rephrase that" so it doesn't seem quite so damaging.
Believe me, I am not finding fault with my daughter's confession. In fact, I think I caught a glimpse of how our heavenly father sees us as I heard my daughter's very honest testimony that night. We are never totally honest (often because we are never totally aware) with God or others about our sin. Yet God is not put off by it. I knew the truth about my daughter just as God knows perfectly the truth about my heart. In that moment I loved my daughter more than ever and realized that no amount of naughtiness would ever undo that. Just as our Father purposes that nothing in us can ever separate us from his love. This is not to say that He winks at or excuses sin, or finds it cute. Rather, on the basis of Christ's sacrifice we have been made His children and that is a bond that is stronger than our sin.
My prayer for my daughter (and my other two children) is that she would grow in her awareness of her sin, grow in awareness of God's love for her and that the confidence she might have in Christ's redemption would prompt her to never feel that she has to hide her sin from either her heavenly Father or her earthly one.
My daughter's testimony reminded me of the truth that there are two things we can never underestimate: the severity of our sin and the reach of God's love and grace. So my prayer for her is also my prayer for me. God is so good to us, is He not?