Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 5

First of all, let me say that my children are wonderful. Furthermore, let me say that the fact of their being wonderful is essential to the rest of the things that I have to say to you. It is not essential in the sense that my children need to be perfect in order to teach you something about raising godly kids. That is not really what I mean. I do think that I have to have some moral authority in order to speak to you on this subject. Thus, my children should be well behaved, godly, happy examples. It would be no help to you to write these things if my own children had already turned out stinkers. So, they should be good children by a fairly high objective standard. I think they meet that standard.

What I mean by ‘my children are wonderful’ has as much to do with my wife and I as it does to do with them. What I want to say is that we are pleased with them. And this pleasure derives not just in their external behavior towards us but in the very fact of being parents and the joy that it brings us to be their parents.

A word of caution here. This is much more than just thinking that you love your children and then turning a blind eye to their every fault. Children can be pleasant or unpleasant based upon how they behave. And that behavior is largely governed by the parent’s ability to see, even with some objectivity, and then to act. Some parents cannot see anything negative in regards to their own children and thus fail to teach them or discipline them in any way. The Bible has a word for this. It is called hatred.

Other parents, however, see far too much. Actually, seeing is not the problem. How you see is the problem. Some parents, especially those who are trying to do a really, really good job of raising their children, can ‘only’ see defects and they spend all of their time chasing down those defects. In this case, the children are not good enough and never will be. There is a bias towards perfectionism on the part of the parent that can never allow the children to have passed the test. That kind of parent will never be able to say, along with me, that “My children are wonderful.”

By wonderful I do not mean perfect. By wonderful I do not mean sinless. My kids make lots of mistakes. They commit plenty of sins. I try to look at them with my eyes open, seeing that they are sinners, immature, still a tad foolish. This is the way they are because they are children.

However, the fact that they are children does not take from me the great pleasure of enjoying them. It is helpful for us to understand this. I think many Christians, perhaps especially in our own Reformed tradition, misunderstand God, and then reenact that misunderstanding as they parent their own children. They see God as an austere Father who cannot tolerate sin in any fashion, Who is just waiting for us to slip up so that He can squash us. Is it any wonder that fathers who view the Father this way, tend to be harsh, critical and unpleased?

I must confess that I must fight this tendency. I think moms tend to be more critical of girls, dads to their sons. But there is so much in our children to be pleased with. Why not see it and find great pleasure? It is not the same thing to have high standards for your children in behavior, education and Christian witness and to be highly critical when they do not meet your perfectionistic standards. In fact, if you have high standards the children will tend to live up to them or at least live up towards them. But if you are highly critical about shortcomings, then the children will react against this. They can feel, even if they cannot understand, the hypocrisy of your demands and your behavior. Your hypercritical attitude is far worse than their failure to vacuum the carpet just so, or set the table just right, or put the napkin on the lap at the right time. Your critical attitude is even worse than their sour face towards sister, a lazy morning of school work, or a host of other shortcomings.

I will discuss these issues more as we discuss the needed pleasant aroma of the home in raising godly children. However, suffice to say here that in order to say that your children are wonderful you have to see that it is actually the case, believe it and act as if it was so.

I really do think my children are wonderful. We still have a lot of work to do with some of them. The oldest is seventeen. We are mostly done training her in our home. She should be an adult now. We just need to learn how to let her stand on her own feet. The youngest is five. He still needs a lot of day to day training. But for both of them, and the four in between, it truly has been a labor of, not only love, but also pleasure, in training them up in the way that they should go. By God’s grace, we have not been disappointed. They are all a testament of God’s grace to us and to our children.

A last word about our children that also applies to yours. This job of parenting is done by the grace of God. We can see by the fruit that we have done well. Not perfect. There are many better parents. Can’t say that I have seen better children, though. Remember, mine are wonderful. But this is not done by perfect parents who have read all the right books and have the perfect answer to every potential problem. Raising children takes wisdom by relying upon God’s Holy Spirit to lead.

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