I’m going to try and start a new series, something to keep me accountable, on our weekly goals in applying one, or two scriptural principles to our family life. This will be a prod on the rear on a weekly basis to keep up with teaching my children not only the Word of God, but why he gave it to us in the first place! God’s Word applies to ALL of life, and when we let the Holy Spirit convict us in an area in which we are failing miserably, he can work wonders through God’s Word, to change not only our daily life, but our attitude as well. The principle for today applies to all of us, all the time. Obedience is its own blessing when it comes to God’s Word. Choosing to sin, is choosing to suffer.
The children and I have been focusing on scripture lately as a means to manage the difficulties of life, and believe me, we fail often. We aren’t perfect by any means, but that is why God gave us his grace, his mercy, and his Word, right?
There are several people in my life who have challenged me to live by scriptural principles and see the change it brings. The two scriptural principles we have been working on this week are toughies.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
(Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV)
As a child, I always found that first verse uncomfortable and angering. I had other ideas that eclipsed my ‘parents’ ideas, and I chafed under the umbrella of obedience, looking out at the world with wonder, curiosity, and envy.
As a parent, I began with admonishing my children with the first part of this passage, but strangely uncomfortable by the second part. What did it mean “Do not provoke your children.”? They WILL be upset sometimes when we ask them to obey. As my oldest got older and older, and the seeds of rebellion are beginning to grow (at 6!) I’m understanding more what this means.
So we all sat down together and talked over this passage, and I felt more taught by my daughter’s perspective, than I was teaching her! The first part, we discussed the blessing of obedience, that God promised a blessing for those who obey. We also talked about why sometimes, we don’t want to obey, and when that has turned sour, or become a problem. Setting the stage has made it easier this week to ask the children, in a tough moment “What does God’s Word say about obedience?” Which can cause them to rethink their actions, not because of MY command, but because of God’s command. Obedience is its own blessing!
This leads to the second part of the passage. The parental part. This is where exasperating your children comes in. Hearing my children talk about why they didn’t want to obey clicked with something someone else had said to me. “Are you asking them to obey YOU and your whims, or God and his law?” I don’t know where I heard that, in a book, or from a friend, but no matter the source, the thought stuck.
As my children described not wanting to obey because I was angry, mean, or demanding, I realized how often I place the emphasis of their obedience on MY satisfaction. I also realized that in doing so, I was exasperating them, provoking them. I wasn’t asking them to obey cheerfully the law of the Lord, or to avoid a threat to their safety, I was displaying annoyance with their childish foolishness. I wasn’t teaching them with an attitude of humility, but an attitude of ‘this isn’t serving ME and MY needs.’ I need to acquire an attitude of humility, and walk beside them as a guide, a teacher, in learning God’s laws, and part of that is being honest when I fail, and apologizing for my failures as a parent. How can I expect my children to obey God’s Word, and show self control when asked to obey, when I do not do it myself? I’m slowly learning that my example of Godliness colors their perception of it. That is a BIG responsibility!
So, lets look at the parent’s portion: (I prefer the King James version, so I’ll quote that here.) “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
(Ephesians 6:4 KJV)
So we’ve got a two part command here. We shouldn’t provoke them to anger. that is part one, we’ve covered that. Now for part two. Bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Nurture: This is the love part. being patient, understanding their human sin, and pointing them in the direction of grace and mercy as they get back up and recover from the consequences of their sin. This includes direct instruction in what God expects from his children. Giving them scriptural examples for specific situations, (part two of this week’s goals, which comes from Matthew 18, applies to this. We are learning how to solve conflicts Biblically, and so, when they have a conflict, I should, as a parent, intentionally train them in the way the scripture commands. I should walk them through the conflict, and train them lovingly. This takes perseverance, hard work, and doesn’t happen with one discussion. It is a constant maintenance of this particular procedure of Biblical principles.)
Admonition: This is the harder one. Admonition means “advice, counsel, or caution.” or “A gentle reproof.” In other words, this is when we warn our children. “Sarah, if you try to pick up that broken glass, you will cut yourself. Do not touch it!” Sometimes, if the warning is not listened to, and I am not quick enough to prevent the inappropriate behavior, there are consequences, natural or otherwise. This is the hard part of parenting. The training has been completed, this is the reminder that the training is valid. Perhaps my child may pick up the glass, and cut herself. That is a natural consequence. In the past (and this did happen once) I spent the clean up and band aid application asking Sarah about how disobedience worked out for her, and reminding her of the blessing of obedience, that she chose to forego. Next time, I will say “Do you want to be blessed, or hurt again?” It is a natural reminder that Mom and Dad, in following God’s laws, are wanting the best for her.
Now, there are those other times that require admonishment, because the natural consequences may either a.) take longer or b.) not be enough.
“Go to bed Emma, you’ll be tired if you do not.” If Emma doesn’t listen, she has other consequences, parent driven ones. She is placed in her bed over and over again, and not allowed to remain out of it. This may be coupled with a stern warning. “If you do not obey, then you will (lose movies for tomorrow.)”
For littles, the consequences are usually more tangible, like a gentle swat on the hand if they reach for something they shouldn’t. It is enough of a reminder that they stop.
“Ava, don’t touch that food, it is hot!” Ava reaches for the food, there is a gentle swat and a no. This hasn’t happened often. It really only took once for it to occur to her it wasn’t worth it. Now when she hears the word hot, we’ve taught her to blow on her food. She’ll sit and blow and blow and blow until a go ahead is given. It is too cute!
We have noticed that in requiring obedience from them, and gentle warnings as per God’s law, not our own personal whims and moods, we have happy healthy children. It is consistent, predictable, and built on an unchanging standard, that is not my standard, it is God’s Word. They have realized the blessings that accompany obedience. We have found that there are many blessings, such as happy family outings, natural rewards for obedient children, like extra play time because work was done quickly and efficiently, or a bit of playground time after church, because everyone sat beautifully, not to mention my favorites, lots of praise, hugs, and kisses, are often a good motivator.
This doesn’t mean we are perfect, and that no one is ever disobedient, cranky, nasty, or unkind, we are human, and we still sin! But following God’s plan can often times minimize, and marginalize sin, and its painful consequences.
Well, I’ve used up so much space writing this, I guess our second goal for the week: Family Friendly Conflicts, as per Matthew 18, will have to be a second parter for tomorrow, or even next week!