Monday, June 8, 2009

Lessons in Servanthood

Jack and Max - my three and four year-old boys - are poster children for "best friends/worst enemies". It's a perplexing back and forth that puzzles even me, the Momma in the front row with the best view.

So, I've been conducting an experiment on my little Back-and-Forthers.

When one of them offends, hurts, whacks, taunts - sins against his brother, I put the offender in time out. Not in a time out chair removed from the family, as I would normally do, but on a chair in our family room. In the center of our home.

The one who is hurt gets attention and lovin' from Momma - and then immediately begins serving his brother who is sitting in time out.

He can bring his time out stricken brother a snack, a drink, a toy, put on his favorite movie, or find some other way of loving and serving the one who has hurt him. The one who has offended him. The one that reached out in anger and administered the blow.

Why? Why this approach? It seems so backwards and unfair. Let the train-thrower serve the brother who wears the bandaid across his forehead. Let him pay for what he's done.

I chose this approach for my precious, malleable boys because serving someone who has hurt you, offended you, sinned against you is so terribly difficult when your wounds are fresh and raw - but so worth undertaking. Because reaching out in forgiveness and love when you want to whack the one who hurt you over the head breaks down walls, heals, and restores. And, because extending grace trumps the sin that would sever, tear, and break.

But, most importantly, I chose this approach because Jesus responded this way. Because Jesus reached out in forgiveness when His wounds were fresh and raw. Because Jesus extended grace immediately, when His forehead still bled from the wounds of our sin.

It's easy to be angry, punish, ignore, retaliate. It's what comes naturally when you've been on the receiving end of injustice and hurt.

But, it is amazing what happens when you immediately begin to serve someone who has hurt you. Your wounds begin to heal. Their shame is replaced with gratitude.

Pain and brokenness are replaced with joy as the relationship is restored.

As my little boys grow into men, they will be hurt, offended and betrayed more times than I can bear to think about. And, most frequently, by those close to them.

It is how they respond to those offenses that will reveal the true depth of their character.

My hope for them is that they learn to respond in love, servanthood, forgiveness, and grace.

Just like their Savior.


  1. What a wonderful idea I hope it works. My fear as I read it was that this would become a motivation for crime. I mean if I throw a train at my brother he then has to be really nice to me after. I get special treatment. What are you doing to prevent that?

  2. What M. Mcgough said.

    Maybe, abuse of power leads to real time-out?

  3. Margaret,

    You make an interesting point - but that hasn't happened at all. Perhaps it's still too new to them, and they haven't "figured that out". If I were to see that happening, I'd try another approach.

    Also, I don't use this for *every* offense, every time. This is simply one means of teaching them - not the *right* way or the one I use every time.

    As Zane suggested, if I saw manipulation occurring, I'd use a different approach for disciplining that.

  4. I think this is great! It would be hard to do something to someone who was going to serve you. Brilliant!

  5. I think that this is such a beautiful way to teach our kids about serving and forgiving.

    I am going to try it out...maybe when our girls are a little older (our 5 yr old would get it, but our girls at 1 and 2 yrs old are a little young to understand), but soon I am sure that his method will be used in our home too.

    I love that this lesson is not only about serving and forgiving, but also it's a lesson in grace. The one who did the offending will learn about what God's grace is all about.
    That even though I was mean, I am still loved. This is a valuable lesson to learn as well.
    (I am still learning this one!!)


    Hopefully as you explain some of this to your boys they won't be tempted to offend on purpose, but rather embrace some valuable "man-shaping" lessons!

    Thanks for the great idea!

  6. interesting - and so true. what a great opportunity to teach them how life should work... on both ends.

  7. Great idea, Sarah. Patterning your little men to live after Christ's example even now is an invaluable lesson.

  8. Wow, Sarah. Great idea (and very well written). I'm going to tuck this one in the back of my brain for when my girls are a bit older.

  9. what a great idea, sarah. have you actually started doing it yet? how are the boys reacting? i was wondering how hard it would be, at least in the beginning, to get them to serve the one that had hurt them.

    give us an update some time =)

  10. Diana,

    I've been doing this with them for a few days now, and the result has been such a joy to watch. I've been amazed at how happily the offended one will serve his brother. It's new to them still - I'm intently watching to see how it unfolds. Or unravels.

    Perhaps I'll write an update at some later point.

  11. LOVE IT, Sarah! I think it's a great lesson in forgiveness for little ones.

  12. You continually impress me Sarah, what with your month long fast on spending, your amazing concoctions in the kitchen, and your discipline techniques! Thanks for sharing... I love learning from you!!

  13. Wow, what a way to teach them a deeper level of forgiveness. Can't wait to see how it's working as time continues.

  14. I tagged you in a post tonight. Join if you want but don't feel obligated! :)

  15. Thanks for the great idea! As usual, the Book has all the answers!

  16. beautiful, sarah.

  17. Sarah, I am continually amazed as I read your various writings. I regret that there are so many years that we lost touch, but feel blessed that we have reconnected. I can't wait to try this when the girls get a little older.

  18. Thanks for sharing that. I really appreciated your words. I hadn't thought of discipline in that manner. Have you had good results with it? My problem is my special needs kids and their short attention span. But, it never hurts to give it a try!

  19. I believe this is the best blog post I have ever read about forgiveness. Thank you so much for posting.

  20. This is a really interesting concept. My boys are 3 years and 10 months, so I don't think I can really implement it yet, but it's definitely something to consider for the future.

  21. I have never, ever thought of this. This is an amazing idea. Thank you!