Thursday, September 1

The Claw

Read 1 Samuel 8

I’m not a big fan of taking my kids to the grocery store. They behave well enough (mostly), but grocery stores attempt to antagonize parents by putting those horrid candy/toy vending machines directly in line of the exit. You can ignore them going in, but coming out, they call out, brightly colored Sirens, beckoning small children and turning them into small monsters.

They begin by running toward the machines, then the whining starts. We’ve been grocery shopping together, my kids and I, for 4-6 years. NEVER in all that time have I weakened my resolve not to contribute to such a heinous play for my hard-earned quarters. But they still beg. They still whine.

Far and away the WORST vending machine atrocity is The Claw. I don’t know what it’s really called. It’s the one filled with giant stuffed animals, jewelry and cell phones. For only a dollar, you can try your hand at maneuvering the mechanical claw to grab at a coveted prize.

I’m telling you, they are a legal form of gambling for the under 21 set. The house always wins.

And it’s call is the loudest of them all.

One of the tragic side effects of trying to teach children to be responsible with money, is that they have it. Also, they have not yet learned responsibility. So the other day, my kids found out we were going to the grocery store. They both took off for their piggy banks and they both came back with dollar bills, eager to this time get to try The Claw.

I wanted to tell them no so badly. But I didn’t.

On the way there, I offered up a brief lecture about cause and effect, but my lack of enthusiasm didn’t bring theirs down so much as a notch.

They lost. Both of them. Two dollars, gobbled up by the monster-maker. Two expressions of devastated shock.

No one told me I was right. I didn’t remind them. And being right did not make me even a little happy. I hugged them and dragged their dejected little bodies out to the car. I wiped away tears.

The call of The Claw seems to have lost its oomph. Oh, they still run to it, but the begging has lost conviction.

As parents, we sometimes have to let our kids learn lessons the hard way. It stinks, big time. I hated the watery eyes, trembling lips and slumped shoulders I saw on my boys, but experiencing disappointment in this case was a far more effective way for them to learn this lesson than a simple. “No, you can’t.”

When Israel asked for a king, I’m sure God was on Samuel’s side. Certainly he wanted to put his foot down and say “NO.” It wasn’t that the begging of his children got to him in the end. He didn’t throw up his hands in unholy surrender and relent to incessant pestering. Instead he gave them the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson-or quite a few in this case.

Most of us are parents now, but we need to remember we are still being parented by a loving Father. We ask for things that seem so important at the time, but in the end will lead to disappointment. The apostle Paul tells us everything is permissible for us under grace, but that doesn’t mean we should do it (1 Corinthians 10:23). God won’t always protect us from things that hurt, because pain helps us grow, understand, and mature. He does offer a shelter in storms of our own making and a safe place to land when we fall.

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