My husband was scarred for life when, at the tender age of 6, his mother
vacuumed up the light saber of his precious Luke Skywalker action figure. He
admits she had probably reminded him several times to keep it off the floor and
take better care of it. But, being a somewhat forgetful (read: normal) young boy,
he left it out one too many times, to be sucked away forever into the abyss that
is a vacuum dust bag.
Heartbroken, he poured for hours over creating a replacement for his bereft
Luke. He carefully colored a toothpick green with a marker, then piece by
laborious piece, cut and wrapped scotch tape around and around one end until
it was the perfect circumference for fitting snugly in Luke's clutched hand.
Every time he played with his favorite action figure he was reminded of his
tragic carelessness. Even now, thirty years, later, he remembers the event with
bitterness and a sense of injustice.
What he took away as a lesson from this experience is one we parents are
constantly thinking we want for our children--the direct relationship of choice
and consequence. His mother said something like, "I told you to put it away.
Well, I'm sorry, it's gone now," and that was that.
He made his choice, now he must live with the consequence. How many times
have we said the same type of thing to a child? My husband still knows to this
day that this happened because he neglected to follow his mother's advice and
pick up his toys. But, that doesn't make it hurt any less. Indeed, thirty years
later, it still rankles.
And here is the lesson for those of us responsible for children. Instead of being
a lesson of choice and consequence, it could have been a lesson about
repentance, a much more important lesson for the future of any child of God.
The difference between accountability and repentance is summed up in this
"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and
then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast
reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy" (D&C 121:43).
The boy-version of my husband was reproved by his mother. He knew it was
his fault that the precious light saber was lost. This is akin to an adult
realizing he has sinned--he feels the sorrow for what he is done. He knows and
acknowledges it was wrong, it was his fault. But that is only the first step of
If I go to Heavenly Father in prayer and admit my sin before him and ask for
forgiveness, eventually I will feel His peace and love and forgiveness. Feeling
this forgiveness is the difference between accountability and repentance.
This was the step that never happened in the parable of the action figure's
sword. My husband never felt the love that would swallow up his hurt.
What could have been done? Perhaps he could have been allowed to sift
through the icky vacuum bag himself (and clean up the mess afterward by
himself). Perhaps his mother could have helped him make a new light saber.
Perhaps he could have done extra chores to earn money to buy a new one.
Any of these would have told him someone loved him, someone would stand by
him and would help him heal from this child-sized tragedy. Instead he was left
to deal with the consequences alone. A child may not be old enough to
understand what "godly sorrow" is, or to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, but
he knows when he is loved, and when he feels forgiven and healed.
As a parent, it is so, so much easier to say "I told you so," and turn away, than
to consider how a child could be helped to both feel accountable and redeemed.
God does not want us to just feel accountable--our guilt before Him would
likely consume us. He wants us to feel redeemed.
While God is lending a child of His to us for a time, let us try to raise that child
with the same forbearance and love God extends to us--an increase in love
when we fail but want to do better.
Inevitably, our children will leave their Luke Skywalker light sabers on the
floor. We will vacuum them up. What we do next could help our child learn
what to do when someday in the future it is his integrity, chastity, or testimony
that has been vacuumed up.
Emily S. Jorgensen is an independent music teacher in the Provo/Orem, Utah, area. She is an
active adjudicator and lecturer across the Wasatch front. She has held several positions in the
Utah Music Teachers Association. She has three children and is expecting her fourth soon.
Emily grew up in Tacoma, Washington, earning her International Baccalaureate diploma in high
school. She was awarded a Trustees Scholarship at BYU, and was graduated from BYU with a
Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Masters of Arts in Elementary Music Education.
She taught group piano classes at BYU, and has operated a private studio for 16 years, where she
has taught private and group music lessons for ages 2 through adult.
Emily currently serves as Primary president in her LDS ward, and is still married to her high school