|Our daughter and her son, age 10 (and #10!).|
When I've gone on and on about some problem or another: "Just trust in the Lord!" she exclaims.
"Pray about everything! Jesus is always with you! Don't worry about anything!"
It's surprising to me how often these pithy little statements bring me back to the center of trusting the Lord. And this makes me wonder about how to establish a parent/child relationship that will lead to the lifelong respect that enables me to "listen to my mother" to this day.
This morning I was talking with my daughter about my concerns with the plethora of teen literature that inevitably begins with kids being out on their own for some reason or another. Adults can't be trusted or are absent, so the protagonists have to rely on their own powers to succeed. This makes for thrilling stories that are fun for a young person to read, but I worry that it feeds the feeling that after a certain age (12? 13?) the advice of parents becomes archaic and even foolish, and it is best to trust in oneself and one's friends for guidance.
Here is my counsel to my daughter for words to speak to her 10-year-old (going on 16) son:
Satan is going to try to discredit your parents in your eyes. It won’t be hard to do, because like all human beings, we are imperfect and sinful. The devil knows that we are the best you’ve got because of the deep love we have for you. No one on earth loves you as much as we do, and no one on earth prays as much for you as we do. And so you can trust the Lord’s love and guidance for you as it flows through us.
Additional words to speak as the child can receive them:
The Bible says no one has ever been able to keep doing what is right, that’s why God had to send His son to take the blame for our sins. It was God’s love that saved us from ourselves. When, as your parent, I do something sinful or foolish--when you see I’m wrong about something--the devil will try to get you to ignore everything I say because of those things I do or say that are wrong. He does this because he wants to destroy you. If he can shut you off from the wisdom that flows through me as God speaks to you through me, he has a better chance of putting you on the path that will lead to your destruction.
No one likes to be told what to do. Discipline is uncomfortable and sometimes painful (no one likes to pick up trash from the yard on a hot day). It is natural to resent having to do something that someone else tells you. Satan will use this resentment to try to get you to rebel against authority God has placed over you. It is discipline that God uses to sculpt you into the person He wants you to be. It is discipline that enables you to lead the life that He wants you to lead, the life that will bring you great blessings of peace of heart and mind. In God’s plan, learning to receive His discipline begins with learning to receive our parents’ guidance and discipline.
Satan will tell you “Why can’t God just speak directly to me; why do I need to submit to the wisdom of a parent?’ Here is why. Our physical senses overrule our spiritual senses as we are growing up in Christ. For a long, long time, we can’t trust that what we feel is true, because we can’t see spiritual truth clearly or understand God’s guidance as we will someday be able to do. During this time of training, we learn what faith is. Like a soldier follows his captain, like an employee follows his boss’s rules, like a child follows a parent, we have to have faith that the guidance of our parents and others God has placed in authority over us is in our best interests.
Our challenge as parents is to become spiritually mature, trusting in what we cannot see, believing what we have not experienced with physical senses, placing our hope and trust fully in the invisible God whose visible works surround us...
When we grow in faith to the degree that we can say, ...but I trust in you, oh Lord, I say, you are my God, my times are in your hands**...even when the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine***...then our hearts are set right. And when our hearts are set right, the rest follows. Until this point in our faith development we need wise counselors and guidance from those God has placed in authority over us. And when those counselors fall away, well then... though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Another version says though my father and mother drop me, the Lord will pick me up. ****
Our goal as parents is to make believers of our children, and yes, that rings with dual meaning. Discipline makes a “believer” of a child—he believes you will do what you say and he respects you for it. Respect is synonymous with love in the child/parent relationship. You teach the child to believe you. You teach him to respect you.
You teach him that discipline is for his good. You teach him about real love and you become your own best PR person: perhaps not proclaiming “after all I’ve done for you” (not because it isn’t true but because it won’t be well-received) but “I have loved you from before you were born and have prayed for you every day of your life. You can trust the Lord in me because He flows through this love channel that is unequaled by anyone else in your life.”