It’s official. My “baby” tugged on his sneakers, pulled his backpack onto his shoulders, grabbed up his lunchbox and headed out the door to kindergarten this week.
In the final week of summer, we all chimed in with school-preparation tips:
When to go to the bathroom. How to ask to go to the bathroom. Where he would sit on the bus. His room number, his lunch number, his teacher’s name, and the clipchart behavior system they use at his school.
The behavior chart caught his attention. He prayed at night that he would only ever “be on green and never have to clip down.”
At Open House, we met his teacher and he played with toy animals and dinosaurs while I signed the pile of forms. He zipped over to me for a quick second while I was in mid-signature to tell me that he had accidentally knocked over the animal bucket….just accidentally….but he had picked it right up because he didn’t want to clip down.
He whispered “clip down” like he was describing ultimate doom.
So with all of his focus and concern over clipping up or clipping down, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by his last words to me before heading out to the bus on the first day of school:
I might have to visit the principal’s office.
It wasn’t a little prophecy; it was a confession of fear. The worst thing that could happen would be getting sent to the principal and he was worrying over that.
He didn’t visit the principal, of course. He climbed off the bus at the end of the first day with a good report: No clipping down. No time out. No conferences with the principal.
I love that he is so intent on doing the right thing and I love that the chart is really motivating him to try hard to make good choices.
But I have also been taking the time to counterbalance this with a conversation about grace.
Because I think he needs the reminder. And maybe I do, too.
He’s not perfect. He’s just a five-year-old little boy trying really hard to do the right thing and sometimes he won’t get that exactly right.
So somehow he has to learn this incredibly difficult balance between trying to do what’s right , and yet not being terrified of mistakes or paralyzed by the fear of doing the wrong thing.
After all, Jesus didn’t come to earth and die a painful, sacrificial death to atone for a bunch of people who never get it wrong.
He came because we needed His help! We needed a Savior.
I read a prayer this morning that included asking God to bring my faults to light so He could work on them and I thought–Oh Jesus, please don’t do that! I don’t really want to see or know or have anyone else see or know all the ugliness of sin in me.
Later this morning, I prayed for direction and guidance, and I began to feel the pressure of getting it right, not making a mistake, not choosing the wrong direction and ending up in the completely wrong place instead of where God intended.
It can start to feel like it all depends on me to do right, choose right, be right.
So, instead of feeling the weight and the pressure of perfectionism, I have to heave all that off of my shoulders and down at the feet of Christ.
This doesn’t depend on me. It is not up to me.
I read in the Psalms this reminder:
God—he clothes me with strength
and makes my way perfect (Psalm 18:32 CSB).
I can depend on God, not on myself or my own effort. It’s His strength I need. And it’s God who makes “my way perfect.” I trust Him to change me, to direct me, to help me be more like Jesus.
What I really need is to know Jesus, to love Jesus, to trust Jesus. He cares enough about me to forgive me, to offer me fresh starts, and He’s big enough and strong enough to rescue me, redirect me and take me to the place He plans for me to go.
That’s why I lean into my son and I tell him, “Absolutely, I’d love for you always to be on green on the clip chart. That’d be awesome. But if there’s a day where you have to clip down, it’s still going to be okay. You can just start fresh after that. You can try again.