He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

08 June 2011

Thou Shalt Not Fear Me

Over the course of the the past two plus years of being a parent I have been constantly awed and intimidated by the task of parenting that has been placed before me. I've read books on parenting. I've read LOTS of books. Most of them have said things I already knew but needed to be reminded of. Things like "consistency is key", "put your marriage first", "remember that each child is different", "don't discipline out of anger" ...
Recently I was smacked in the face with one of those things that I've always known but didn't realize I wasn't doing.
I guess you could sum it up as a recent Facebook status I read
"Rules-relationship=rebellion while rules+relationship=respect"
{I might even change the first equation to "rules-relationship=resentment}.
If your confused, let me explain.
I've been working my way through a book by Tedd Tripp called "Shepherding a Child's Heart". I started it before Bean was born and haven't been able to pick it up much since then but one of the last sections I read resonated with me. In the chapter entitled "You're In Charge", Tripp explains that as a parent we cannot be afraid to parent our children. It's our God-ordained duty to be an authority in our childrens' lives. At the same time, and this is where I was convicted, we are not to raise our children to obey us out of fear. Rather, we must understand that we are agents of the Father.

I think as a Christian parent it's easy to say the words that my children are "on loan" from God.
When I start to worry about my kids {that they'll drown in a pool when no one is looking, that they'll choke on their dinner when they eat too quickly, that they'll run away or get lost and never be found} my best defense is to remind myself that my children are not my possessions but rather gifts that God has given to Hubs and I to train for His will/glory. I know that I don't always act like I believe this but when I start to worry about the safety of my kids it helps to remember who's in control.
It's also helpful to remember that they're not mine because... well... it's the truth. They are on loan and they have been hand picked to be in my life so that I can raise them in the fear of the Lord and it is my job to always direct them to Him. Always.
I forget that too often. I forget that it's not about me... obeying my orders...making me happy... bringing joy into my life...
Ultimately, it's about bringing God glory.
It's what's expected of my life, my every thought, word, deed. And that is exactly what I am expected to teach the children placed into my care.
Boy, did I need this reminder.
I needed to be refocused.

"Understanding that you function as God's agents can keep you sharply focused and humble as parents. It is sobering to realize that you correct your child by God's command. You stand before him as God's agent to show him his sin. Just as an ambassador is conscious of functioning in behalf of the country that has sent him, so the parent must be aware of the fact that he is God's representative to the child. I know of no realization that will sober and humble a parent like this one." - Tedd Tripp
And with that said, we have no right to be angry because when a sin is committed it isn't committed against us but rather God. {That fact should make our children struggle a little.}
I have shared my favorite definition of "anger" before ...
"Anger is your reaction when you haven't received something you think you deserve".
Often, as a parent, I believe I deserve things like unquestioning children, immediate action, things done on my schedule, perfect obedience, minimal distraction from what I want to be doing...
Often, when I don't get these things I get angry and impatient with my kids.
I was raised in a home that, I feel, often demanded obedience and when I didn't obey immediately, the yelling began. Looking back, I know that it was for the sake of intimidation. Looking back, even now, I see how ineffective it was and how resentful it made me. I knew from an early age I didn't want to intimidate or exhaust my kids and yet I've caught myself doing it already.  I was raised to obey out of fear of my parents and the consequences but I did not have an obedient heart..
So it rings true, rules without a relationships bring resentment or rebellion and that's bad news for my relationship with my kids.
As Tripp says, "there is no place for anger". This kind of parenting manipulates your child using "raw displays of anger" and your child "learns the fear of man, not the fear of God... If correction orbits around the parent who has been offended, then the focus will be venting anger or, perhaps, taking vengeance. The function is puntivie. If, however, correction orbits around God as the one offended, then the focus is restoration. The function is remedial. It is designed to move a child who has disobeyed God back to the path of obedience. It's corrective... The primary thrust of discipline is not to take revenge, but to correct. The discipline of a child is a parent refusing to be a willing party to his child's death." - Tripp

The lesson I'm learning:
Remember, at all times, what my job as a parent is. My job is to lead, direct, point my child to Jesus in all things. When I expect my kids to obey me using fear/intimidation, I am not fostering a relationship. Rather, I am instilling anger and resentment into them and when the time comes, they will not want to listen to the truth's of Christ, as heard from my mouth, and I will have lost my credibility.

Wow! This parenting stuff is A LOT of work!

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