One day when I was 11 years old, my mother taught me a lesson I still remember.
I was loading the dishwasher, and as I placed the utensils in the basket, I had a stroke of genius. I decided to place all the spoons in one section of the basket, all the forks in another section, and so on. That way, when I unloaded the dishwasher, I wouldn’t have to organize the utensils. I could just put them in their place in the drawer.
I felt so proud of myself – but then my mother came by.
“Joshua,” she said, “you need to mix the utensils or they’ll stick together, the water won’t get in between them, and they won’t get clean.”
She could probably see the disappointment on my face.
“Son, I know you thought that was a good idea, but don’t feel bad about it – that’s the way I used to do it too. But one time, we were visiting your grandma, and she told me the same thing. At first, I didn’t appreciate her saying it, but then I realized she actually had a good point.”
Suddenly, I found it much easier to swallow Mom’s correction, and I did what she suggested. In fact, I’ve done it that way ever since. So yeah, I learned something that day – but the most important thing was not what she taught me, but how she taught me. That is, she didn’t just tell me what to do, she used a story about herself to illustrate the point.
That’s not so hard to do when you’re teaching a kid how to load a dishwasher, but there were other times my mom taught me lessons about much more sensitive topics – topics like marriage, spirituality, kindness, sexuality, self-control, abuse, and shame, to name a few. Even when addressing those areas, she used personal stories to teach me things that simply couldn’t be learned in the abstract.
I’m sure it was humbling for her (maybe even humiliating) to be so vulnerable, but it came with a big payoff: I actually listened to her, and I listened to her because I could see that she was paying a price to make her point.
I knew a guy whose dad regularly told him that he needed to wait until he was married to have sex. One time, when he was in high school, he asked his dad if he had waited to have sex, and his dad dodged the question. It wasn’t until several years later that my friend did the math and realized that his older brother had been conceived before his parents’ wedding day.
Imagine how powerful it would’ve been if his dad would’ve taken the time to tell his story – the real one. Maybe he could’ve talked about what a letdown his first time was; maybe he could’ve told the story of how scary it was to learn that his girlfriend was pregnant at 18; maybe he could’ve talked about how embarrassed he and his young bride felt at their wedding. But instead, all my friend got from his dad was, Don’t.
I want to be more like my mom as I teach my children how to make wise decisions – whether we’re talking about loading the dishwasher or other, more personal topics. It might be a little embarrassing to be so transparent, but if my memory is any indicator, at least they won’t forget what I said – and they might even follow my advice.
Ok, wow. Not only have I been loading the dishwasher wrong AND taught Bradley to load it wrong 😉 …this is so awesome. I try to be very transparent and although my kids are little and "hard" topics have been few, so far they know mommy has a tattoo and mommy ain't proud. But mommy is willing to be honest and not hide it in an attempt to masquerade as a perfect mommy, unlike the experience I had. I pray that when the bigger issues arise, God will give me opportunities to tell my stories to warn and instruct them in the way of righteousness. Just love your posts Joshua. Keep anything and everything coming, friend!
Josh, I haven't commented before, but I read all of your klutz articles because I find them very genuine and thoughtful, as well as funny and entertaining. I'm commenting now because I couldn't agree with you more, but I needed to hear someone else say it, I guess. I've done the same with my kids (when I quit smoking, I made sure they understood that the irritability and cravings were things that they never wanted to go through), and now my daughter is almost to the point of needing "the talk." I've been putting it off for fear of screwing it up, but now I realize that I just need to be honest and open, and pray that she'll be the same way with me when the time comes.Thanks for helping me see through the fear to what was right in front of me.
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To both of you, I want to say a sincere thanks. I write this blog for free, but you have no idea how big of a payoff it is to read comments like these. Anytime someone takes the time to let me know how these posts have helped them make better choices or see Jesus' love more clearly, I feel like it's worth it to keep it up. Thanks again.
Add me to the list of people who appreciate your blog, Josh, even though this is the first time I've commented. I found it when someone linked to "Singleness, Suffering, and Christian Hope," which I found incredibly encouraging. I know you didn't write that one but I've been encouraged and challenged by your blog posts ever since. Keep 'em coming.God bless you and your family as you love and serve Him.Ruth
As for dishwashers, it depends how you put the utensils in. If you put them in so that they cover each other's faces, then yes, they won't clean properly, but if they are properly spread out, there shouldn't be a problem.As for giving examples, I recently delivered a Sunday School lesson on the subject of adultery. I told the example of an acquaintance who passed away recently who was a philanderer in the time before and after his divorce. This philandering resulted in a child. The child's mother then blackmailed the man and his subsequent wife for large amounts of money for several decades afterwards until a few years before he died, he and his wife said they had no more money to pay her. After the man passed away, the wife revealed the existence of the love child (presumably on his instructions).Do you reckon you would be convinced as a Sunday School child that adultery is not a great idea based on this?
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