But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe - some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them - then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong. Romans 14:23, The Message

Never brag on a four-and-a-half year-old.

This past Saturday, my wife and I could not have been more proud of our son, Jordan. He had been invited to a good friend's birthday party at a local YMCA, where they have a rock climbing wall, and the party was going to be Jordan's first chance to try it out. He'd been gearing up for it all week, even telling the stylists at the hair salon that he was going to get to climb a wall - just like Spider-Man. He also opted out of a post-haircut lollipop, completely on his own, rationalizing that because he'd be eating cake and ice cream later that day, he didn't want to have too many sweets.

Anyway, his mom had in her mind that the party was from 3:00 to 5:00 on Saturday afternoon. But as Valerie drove into the parking lot, she saw people leaving. Uh-oh. Yep... the cake was mostly eaten, the presents were being packed, and Nathan's birthday party had actually been from 1:00 to 3:00.

How would you expect the typical four-year-old boy to react to the news that he had just missed the whole party?

Well, when Val got down on her knees and looked him in the eyes and told him what had happened, he threw his arms around her neck and hugged her. He said, "I love you even when you mess up, Mommy." Nathan's mom invted Jordan over to their home to watch Nathan open his presents (they hadn't done this at the party) and play. Jordan eagerly accepted. To my knowledge, he didn't even have any cake. But when he came home, he told me this had been, "the best day ever," as it had also included going to the gym and to get a haircut with daddy that morning, and now he was going to get to watch some football.

It was his mom who was beating herself up, but the boy was as calm and pleasant and forgiving and full of joy as ever.

That night, at a fellowship for our Adult Bible class from church, some friends asked about the kids, and we told the story of Jordan's day. Jaws dropped. I went to bed feeling like the world's most blessed dad.

Then came Sunday morning.

First, Jordan decided he wanted neither a shower nor a bath, though he needed one. This may sound normal to you, but this boy generally loves getting clean. After we got him dressed he was fine. In the car, he informed me he didn't want to go to church. This wasn't unusual, as it was just a statement, one he has made before. But when we got to the church parking lot... he WOULD NOT get out of the car. When we finally got into the education building... he WOULD NOT go into his class. He was in between crying and screaming. Where did this come from?! We pulled out every prayer and parenting trick we know. Ultimately, we presented our son a choice, and made it clear: go into the class, which would be fun (it always is! He always has loved it and participated and knows the Bible stories), or - go home with Daddy and face not only a spanking but an entire day in his room, without watching football with Dad, without his toys, without his games. He said he couldn't choose. We told him he had to. He chose option B, one that would literally be, for a boy of his age (and for his parents to carry out as well), Hell on earth for a day. My son, the same one who had mused to me the day before, "I think Heaven is going to be just great," the same one who had wowed us with a positive attitude and forgiveness beyond his years, was choosing, essentially, Hell, the worst possible day we could give him.