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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Growing with my Children

"...But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)

We can learn so much from our children.  And not necessarily in fulfillment of Psalm 8:2 ("...from the mouths of babes...") but more so through the interactions we have with them when we spend time with them as God has ordained.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 makes it clear that we should be spending a lot of time with our children for the purpose of raising them up to be His disciples, knowledgeable about who He is and all that He has created, but also wise to discern the things that please Him.  Well, I don't know about you, but this idea has been a growing pain for me for many years.  It goes against my nature to spend a lot of time with children, whether or not they are mine, so I have definitely found there to be a learning curve as to what this means and entails.

Although each of our households runs differently, most parents likely face the same kinds of issues with children.  Disobedience, defiance, irreverence, disrespect, lying, stealing, teasing, hitting, etc. and these are also usually in varying degrees of "severity."  Sadly, though, many of us, myself included, have fallen prey to seeking the world's guidance for how to handle these sins (and that is what they are, so let's not mince words) and because of seeking such guidance from outside sources, we are led astray.  We try this one technique for child-rearing only to find it backfire in our face.  So, we switch to another guideline and discover that it too is not really working, or we have a hole where we are not sure how to apply it in a particular situation.  We essentially find ourselves constantly seeking the next great bit of advice, hoping that it will alleviate the problem at hand and bring peace and order to our households (led astray, "like sheep without a shepherd").  Sadly, though, few of us really ever find it, and often when we think we did find it, we see that down the road we experience some lasting consequences to a technique that was really not how God designed the parent/child relationship to occur.

So, I found myself a bit lost and confused.  Feeling defeated, overwhelmed, and taking on this struggle with children that I did not know how to fight.  As I reached out to God in my despair, it became clear to me.  "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).  The world's methods are broad and ranging, but God's ways are specific and focused, purposeful with long-term vision...I just needed to get myself aligned with His path for bringing up children.

The biggest downside I found with this, though, is that God's way is not easy for me....  I hate to say it, but let's be real, I did not really WANT to "parent" my child.  I really wanted to make the struggles of parenting go away.  I wanted a sinless, perfect, without flaw child.  I know this really opens the truth of my flesh, but I do not deny its presence.  But, determining to do things God's way revealed in me my own sinfulness, which was absolutely exactly where God wanted me to be!  As He spoke to me in His gentle way, long-suffering and full of grace guided by truth, He showed me that parenting is one way that He uses to reveal Himself to us, but also to reveal our nature and sinful ways with Him.  And, in just the same way that He is patient with me in my short-comings, sinfulness, and process of santification, I, too, am to behave in the same way with my children.

Truth be told: there is one difference in this parallel...I am not a perfect God.  I am a fleshly human redeemed by a Savior doing the best I know how to raise the next Godly generation.  How in the world could I truly reflect this parallel to my children?  The answer, of course, was that I am not meant to be God to my kids, but a compass for them to know Him better.  I was to reveal His nature to them as much as possible, even with my failures and short-comings.  The way this translates in our household is that I, too, am growing in my faith and understanding of God even as I teach my children about Him and His ways.  We are growing together, which is the most beautiful thing.  Do I know more then them?  Yes, of course.  Should they treat me with respect and submission?  Absolutely.  But, I should not ever Lord my position of authority over them, and when I fall short of respecting the significance of my position, I am to humble myself before them and seek their forgiveness, just as I do with my Father in Heaven.  What this signifies to them is that Mommy is just like them...sinful and fleshly, broken, and in desperate need of a Savior!  And, it is for this reason that I can be at peace when disciplining them when they sin.  I need not be angry, resentful, frustrated, etc.  When I fail at this, I have another opportunity to humble myself and apologize, and on the circle goes.

The biggest thing, though, that I must remember is that I am learning all of this without a direct example.  I was not raised to disciple my children.  I have to unlearn my cultural upbringing and learn God's Ways.  I am going to stumble through most of this as God's Word teaches me, but over time I will get better and I will learn His ways.  God is eager to teach all of us His methods for raising children.  If He pleases to reveal the why for His ways, we will grow even more.  But, we should not be ashamed of or afraid to grow alongside our children.  None of us have "arrived" on this side of Heaven.  And, remembering our eternal destination and ultimate source of Truth will keep us on the right path.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction."  (Proverbs 1:7)

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