Why Did God Give My Kids Free Will?

Ken SwarnerBy Ken Swarner8 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Chapter 1 “What Is God’s Plan for Imperfect Parents” of Why Did God Give My Kids Free Will?: He Could’ve Waited until They Moved Out by Ken Swarner


I have given the mystery of God’s plans an exorbitant amount of thought (hence, a book). So has my sister, especially after one fateful trip several years ago to toddler gym with her boys.

I caught wind of the incident when my mother phoned to tell me she was at the gym with my sisters and nephews. Apparently, during class, my sister left her boys with my mom and went to the restroom. When she returned, she unknowingly has a toilet-seat cover hanging out of her pants like a tail.

I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure God saw this too before my sister hopped on the trampoline. And every time my sister shot into the air, the toilet-seat cover fluttered like a wind sock.

“Up and down, up and down she went,” my mom later explained … laughing. My sister even did some twists and spins.

Of course, my mother claims she didn’t know what was going on until she heard another parent tell her son: “Johnny, it’s not nice to point!”

Why my sister didn’t feel or hear the toilet-seat cover ruffling behind her, I’m not sure, because my mom said air rushing through the tear-out hole made a whistling sound.

My nephew Drew got a kick out of it. He stood by the trampoline shouting, “Look, Grandma, Mommy’s got wings. She’s like a butterfly.”

That’s when my mom called me to recommend that I write a story about the incident. I’m certain my mother could have stopped my sister before she climbed on the trampoline. But then again, I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t need to call me either.

Of course, the real question is, “What is God’s plan in my sister’s humiliation?” In Proverbs 3:5–6 are the words “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

That’s not altogether comforting when all the other kids in the gym class start begging their mommies for butterfly wings too.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3–5).

I understand the sentiment. And I believe Paul’s sincerity when he wrote it, but these words are difficult to swallow when you open your front door to find a complete stranger standing on your stoop with a scowl while holding your child, who you were pretty sure was supposed to be inside the house.

Want to feel imperfect and alone? Discover that your child was in mortal danger and you didn’t even know it. Now that’s humiliating.

In our defense, we had a dead-bolt lock on our front door to prevent the children from escaping outdoors undetected. My son was eighteen months older than his sister and famous for getting into things and places he was told not to be. Since we knew we had a curious child, we bought all the modern gizmos designed to protect from hazards.

The lock on the door served us well. Unfortunately, my son developed a step faster than my wife and I were prepared for (and we still don’t still don’t have that timing down, four kids later). One day, while I was at work (my alibi), my wife was folding laundry in the bedroom when our son, then three, turned the key in the dead bolt. He opened the door, and his eighteen-month-old sister walked outside. A few moments later, there was the knock. When my wife opened the door, she discovered a woman holding our daughter in her arms.

“She was in the street,” the lady said, indignantly. “Hmmph.”

Needless to say, my wife was mortified, in tears, and quite possibly ready to hand over her children to the authorities. She called and begged me to come home. “I can’t be trusted—I’m a horrible parent,” she confessed. “Hurry … and bring a hammer and nails to seal the door.”

It took days to console her. Just as she started to feel better, my sister called to run salt in the wound. Apparently, she knew the lady who had discovered our daughter, and she heard all about what awful parents we were. Let’s just say the tone in her voice wasn’t much better than the tone of the driver who had found our daughter.

Now, fast-forward a few years. The same thing happened to my sister. She was upstairs when she heard her five-year-old crying downstairs. Minutes before, she had listened to her husband and son discussing something that made her son upset. As her husband left for work, her child was still crying, and my sister-in-law chalked it up to a typical morning. Seconds later, she realized something wasn’t right. She rushed downstairs to find that her sobbing son was actually outside, alone. Somehow, he’d gotten locked out of the house.

As she opened the front door to let her son in, she spotted a neighbor across the street standing outside with his arms crossed, staring at her with an indignant expression.

I’d like to say that what comes around goes around, but I’d only be telling you that to ease the guilt my wife and I felt when it happened to us. Okay, maybe I did enjoy my sister’s lesson just a little bit, but of course that is just another fine example of my imperfections.


Excerpted from Why Did God Give My Kids Free Will? © 2022 by Ken Swarner. Used by permission of David C. Cook. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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