My wife, Kim, was pregnant with our first child when I packed up our belonging in Houston, Texas and moved her across the country to Los Angeles so I could attend bible college at The Master’s College. Thus started a ten year journey that involved four children, seven moves, and four different jobs. I was with her with each birth and she approached each of them with bravery and calm that was nothing short of impressive.
This woman is the reason my children know how to read and how to think. They were taught by her and countless times I would be locked in my study and I would hear her singing with the little ones as they learned their letters and their sounds. When they fell it was always into her arms that they fled and always found a gentle word and plenty of sympathy. It was because of her diligence that they learned to memorize bible verses and to read through the bible several times before they were adults and out of the house. She formed their worldview and she provided them a place of comfort and instruction. The gospel was constantly on her lips but also modeled in her ways.
She instructed them in the ways of obedience. “First and Fast” is a phrase they all knew. When it was time for a rebuke, she did not shirk from that duty. And when it was time for discipline it was given faithfully and diligently, filled with the faith of the fruit that was to come. Because of her diligence our children were a joy to be around, each of them a billboard to her skills as a mother.
She prayed and still prays for them. Her greatest pleasure even today is when the family is raucously gathered together at our house (raucously because that is the only way the Henry’s know how to gather together). Today she is now a grandmother as well. I hear her playing upstairs even now with her little grandson and granddaughter and the memories come flooding back to my mind.
She is a woman of excellence and she captures well the words of King Lemuel, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the way of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her.”
Perhaps you have heard of helicopter parents. You know the type, they send their kids off to college and then hover over them trying to keep everything safe and sound so that their child (an adult) doesn’t suffer any problems. There are many reasons why a parent chooses to do this but two are at the top of the list from my observations.
The first is pride, they have a reputation before others to uphold. They have made certain comments about their children and the goals and aspirations that those children possess. They don’t want to tell their friends that their child could not cut it at the school, or that maybe being a successful business person is not in the cards. And so they work and hover and push the child along so that there is no shame that comes upon any of them.
The second is the issue of fear. They know the dangers that are lurking. They know that there are countless ways that a person is harmed and thrown off track in their lives. They don’t have the confidence that their child has the wisdom to make wise choices, and perhaps they realize that they had never bothered to equip their child with foundational wisdom in the first place. So they hover, pushing and pressing their child into a path that they are not equipped to walk upon because they lack the basic package of true wisdom to do so.
Yesterday I posted about the need for wise counselors. Today I want to talk about the time to put wisdom into the life of a child. I am convinced that parent too often have a child to have a trophy or an experience. They don’t grasp that they now have a soul for which they are now eternally accountable. The child is fun at the beginning but as he grows the challenges become greater and greater. Choices made and words never are spoken that needed to be said. And then the young adult is off into a world that they have little sense of how to navigate it to the glory of God.
In Proverbs 4:10-13 Solomon tells his son
“Hear, my son, and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; And if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.”
Here is a key goal of all parents, to be able to let go, knowing that they have given their sons and daughters the wisdom to walk before God and man in a manner that reflects a true fear of the Lord. Solomon is not interested in hovering. He is interested in sending his son off to walk on his own before God. He gives him warnings to not deviate from this path and go to walk with the wicked (14-17).
And then, in verses 18 and 19 we come to the reasons for his “sending off counsel:”
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble.
If you have done the proper job with your children, when that nasty day of letting them go comes you can walk away in faith. You can have that sense of certainty that the path they are on is like the breaking of the day. As they continue on it they shall walk in righteousness as surely as the day grows brighter. And you warn them that if they step into the path of the sinner that as certain as dusk gives way to full darkness, so shall they descend into folly and sin though at first it may not appear to be true.
So, parents, commit today to be a parent who first fears the Lord yourself that you might begin to walk in wisdom. Then commit yourself to be a parent who humbly points and models for your children they way that they should walk as well. Pour the wealth of wisdom that comes through a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ into their hearts and when that nasty day to let go comes, you can do it in faith and not fear.
Here is one of many articles that showcase a stunning lack of consistency. And in doing so it shows that too many simply do not know what to say when reality smacks them in the face. Which is it? A fetus, a baby, or an infant? It is at that very point that it gets very muddy. Yet for those for abortion, it is simple. A fetus is not a baby, it is a fetus and therefore worthy of destruction if the mother decides as such. Yeah, right.
Two little passages that are similar in their emphasis. Two little passages that are good reminders to parents about their role in raising their little ones. Two little passages that can also be used to be inconsistent and unfaithful in parenting. Allow me to explain.
Perhaps the easiest way to approach this is by first discussing what it does NOT mean to exasperate or provoke your children to anger.
- It does not mean you can’t cross your will with theirs. That is the essence of what a faithful father will do, especially early on in their lives. This gets to the core of the nature of every person, they are sinners in rebellion to their Creator. And that rebellions shall be made obvious in a multitude of ways in a very short time in their life.
- It doesn’t mean that if your child is exasperated/angry that you are doing something wrong as a parent. Trust me, if you are being a proper parent your children will be angry with you plenty.
- It doesn’t mean you should withhold proper discipline/instruction when the child needs to be corrected.
Listen to me for a second. Your child is in that mode of thinking that they will win this “fight.” If they are young (hopefully you meet these battles then and not later) then it might be in picking up the toys or eating everything on the plate. The line is drawn and the heart is defiant. You correct the child and order them to do what you asked. Maybe you are a gentle type and decide to appeal to them first. It matters little because the child is not going to obey. What then? I would say you discipline them, yes, that means spank them. They still rebel and fight? How many more iterations of this do you decide to go through? They are obviously angry, so have you sinned? Nope. And let’s just say you have by blowing your top, so what? Does that free you from training your children? Nope. You confess your sin, you ask them to obey and if they refuse you continue. And you do so until the child understands that to disobey is less pleasurable than obedience. You don’t let whispers in your mind tell you that you are mean, evil or failing. You trust the promises of God and you pray even as that little child fights you for the 50th time.
So what does it mean to provoke your child to anger?
- When you wrongly exasperate your child (accept that to “provoke” is essentially the same thing) you make decisions in behavior and standards that are selfish in nature. The rules are for your convenience and not the glory of God and the training of your children in the way of Christ. Example: Will you just shut up? I am tired of listening to you.
- When you make standards in your home and then enforce them inconsistently you will exasperate the child. You are tired? Then the kid can stand on the couch. Feeling pretty good at this moment? Then the kid is spanked for not keeping house rules. When mom has a headache or dad is watching the game can your children get by with what they want? And then do those rules change when you have time?
- When you have standards that you don’t model you will exasperate the child. Talk to each other disrespectfully and then discipline your child for being disrespectful to you? There you go! Hypocrisy always breeds anger.
- When you deny them the grace of God that you claim for yourself. Very common, especially with your teens. Here is how it commonly comes out: You sin all the time as a husband and father, or wife and mother. You fail to seek forgiveness all the time. You speak angrily and unkindly to your children. But somehow you are under the grace of God and are saved from His wrath. Your daughter vent though? Your son act in a selfish manner? Out comes the phrase, “I just don’t see a changed heart in you. I really doubt your salvation.” No idea why this would produce a bit of exasperation in them, do you?
- When you are more concerned with the externals rather than the heart of the child. They can smell this one a mile off by the way. You have rules for everything and anything. You are trying to create that perfect child that you never were. But somewhere along the line you forget you have a soul in your care. You forget they sin and that they are filled with the same struggles and doubts that haunt you. You don’t listen to them when they toss out little hints that things might not be all well in their lives. Instead you squash those tidbits and keep on grooming their externals.
- When you don’t hear them. I made it a point to take one child with me on many of my errands. It was not convenient usually, but it was valuable. Often I would ask little questions and listen for hints that there are thoughts going on in their minds. I would make every effort to not be shocked or rush to answer everything. Instead I would try to acknowledge that life sucks sometimes and that things are unfair–it is a broken world after all. Then we would talk, really talk about how all of this fallen stuff fits into life under God. Sometimes I did this really good, other times I failed miserably. But the effect in the end is that I still have the ears of my children. The exasperated child just wants to leave home so the voice of the parent can be shut off.
- When you fail to confess your sins to them you will exasperate them. When was the last time you did that? Ask your children, you may be shocked. Do you model for them what it looks like to sin, to repent and confess and make right with those wronged? Really? I have met with a fair share of children of various ages who are angry and bitter. In every one of those meetings the parents were famous for sinning against each other and their children but never going in humility and repenting before them.
Listen, parenting is hard, but training your children doesn’t have to be that hard. Training early and faithfully makes the hard job of parenting easier because you have a child under control and who will listen to you. Practice those things above that exasperate your child and parenting will quickly become impossible.
Let me end with a little reminder in all of this. Remember that they are children. That means they are not fully formed, they have a lot to learn, they have skills is bad decision-making, and that need a lot of love and patience. Learn to laugh with them, tickle them and teach them in the happy times too. Remember your own walk as a child of God, and how much you have to learn. Let that reality encourage you to show your children grace, even as you correct them.
I came across this article today and thought I would toss it out to those who read this blog. Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts, keeping them thoughtful if you please. I have strong thoughts on this whole thing as a father of three daughters and a grand-father of one grand-daughter.
Here is a taste of the article if you are wondering if you feel like clicking through:
Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Washington’s Evergreen State College Thursday after college officials claimed that its non-discrimination policy doesn’t allow the school to stop a man from exposing himself to girls as young as six years old in a women’s locker room. A local district attorney has also stated that he doesn’t plan to enforce the state’s indecent exposure statute to protect the girls.
The 45-year-old male student, who dresses as a woman and goes by the name Colleen Francis, undressed and exposed his male genitalia on several occasions in the presence of young girls who use the college’s locker rooms. Students from Olympia High School and children in the Evergreen Swim Club and Aquatics Academy share use of the locker rooms with the college. Rather than prevent the man from using the locker room, the school has installed curtains and asked the girls to change behind them.
The question in my mind is how would I respond if asked by the news to comment? How do I express my strong opposition without making my reaction the focus?
There are many ways to approach serving in a church nursery. For some it is one of resignation, they just know it needs to be done. For others it is an escape from the church service itself. Many serve because they see the value that comes from allowing the parents a short break to simply worship with the Body. Those are the people I delight in as a pastor, the kind who seek to put on the apron of a slave and with humility serve others. May God magnify their ministry.
One thing about nursery that can be missed though, is that it is an excellent place to begin to pray big prayers for the little ones. It doesn’t need to be only playing and eating little cookies. Rather, there can be a larger vision in the mind of those who serve. May I offer a small suggestion to those who serve in the nursery? Pray big prayers. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:
- Pray over each child at least once. Pray specifically for that small one.
- Pray that they would grow into men and women of faith.
- Pray that they would be blessed of God, that His face would shine upon them, that He would keep them.
- Pray that they would be saved at a young age and grow in grace and knowledge of their Lord Jesus.
- Pray they would have feet that are quick to bring good news to those who know nothing of Jesus.
- Pray that they would walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, bearing every good work that those who see them glorify the Father in heaven.
- Pray that they would be passionate about pursuing unity with others.
- Pray that God would open their hearts to the possibility of going to closed nations with the gospel, that they would be burdened with those who are lost.
- Pray that they would be young men and women of such faith that they would not shrink back from what their Lord calls them to do.
- Pray that their eyes would be fully opened to the vastness and fullness of the Savior’s death and resurrection.
- Pray that the Lord would not lead them into temptation but deliver them through His saving hand.
You get the idea, the point is simple. Pray for the little ones in the nursery and when you pray, pray big.