We don’t do time-outs with our children. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, just that we don’t.
My husband and I have agreed before that a time-out would be the worst kind of (reasonable) punishment for our six-year-old daughter. She would hate that more than anything. She can’t bear the thought of us being upset with her and not speaking to her. I know this because a) she finds it very hard to be alone, and b) if ever I’m quiet for a ten seconds after she’s done something wrong or annoying (either deliberately or not), she’s already badgering me to check I’m still speaking to her: ‘Mummy, Mummy I’m sorry Mummy!’
I know that a time-out is different from just sulking and not speaking to someone. And we don’t do either of those things with our children. Especially not the latter. Sometimes that’s hard. Like in moments like this:
Sometimes you think being quiet is the best course of action – sometimes it is. But if you’re actually punishing someone with the silent treatment, that’s not OK. The main reason that’s not OK, is that God our Father is not like that with us. As his children, trusting in Christ, we always have the ear of the Father. He always hears us, and always speaks to us. He’s never in a mood with us, he never makes us face the wall. He does, in love, discipline us, yes, but when we come humbly to him, ‘Daddy, Daddy I’m sorry,’ we’re never turned away.
I want my children to know what God is like, so that is one reason I don’t give them the silent treatment. But let me be clear – my children deserve the silent treatment from God, and so do I. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that God is always listening to them because they’re so lovely and good. I don’t want them thinking that God forgives their wrongs because that’s his job. Maybe that’s how you feel. That’s what the world around us tells us most of the time. If you believe that, please look more carefully at the cross of Christ.
You’ve seen pictures of Jesus on the cross – it’s ugly and agonising. But the real torture of the cross was not the physical suffering or the humiliating mockery. The real torture was that the Son cried out to his Father and got no response:
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
For the first time in all eternity, the Father hid his face from the Son and didn’t answer. Jesus had been afraid to go to the cross because he knew that this would happen, and he knew that being cut off from the perfect, loving, life-giving God would be unbearable.
The only way for my children to have a perfect relationship with God the Father forever is for them to understand that they deserve no relationship at all.
But Jesus took what they deserve on the cross, standing in their place, so that if they believe in him they will never have to say the words, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ They will never hear Jesus say, ‘Away from me, I never knew you.’ (Matt 7:22) They will never have to spend eternity without him.
“[Jesus] got the Great Silence so we could know that God hears and answers.” (Timothy Keller, Prayer.)
If you don’t believe this – if instead you think that God is kind and good and will accept you, just as you are, then please take the time this Easter to check your facts. Have a read of a gospel, go to a Bible-teaching church and listen, meet up with a Christian friend. God doesn’t just pat you on the head and tell you that your sin doesn’t matter. The truth is much more wonderful, and much more costly (for him) than that.
Easter is a time of fantastic news, of Jesus beating death for us and winning us eternal life with God. I find thinking about the cross hard – I often want to skip Good Friday and move straight onto Easter Sunday. But the cross is really where I see how much God loves me. That he was willing to give his perfect Son the silent treatment I deserve, so that I can be his beloved child forever.
“19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, … 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” from Hebrews 10.
The controversial colouring page pictured above is a copy of a page from the book, ‘The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross‘ published by the Good Book Co., which you can read more about on my Good Reads page.