I prefer to choose what’s easy over what’s best. There is a mentality in the little years that says, just get through it! In other words, the goal is survival. And believe me, I get it. What’s more, on many occasions, I live by it. It’s shortcut parenting, and it comes so naturally. Toss the insomniac newborn in a swing for six months. Bribe the stubborn toddler. Negotiate with the manipulative pre-schooler. But what I didn’t know, is adopting the shortcut mentality is like financing a mansion with no money down. Free today, and a nightmare when the cost catches up with you. When the insomniac baby outgrows the swing. When the easily bribed toddler becomes the out-of-control third grader. In contrast, the Bible’s mandate to train our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4) carries an opposite promise: even when he is old he will not depart from it (Pro 22:6).
I love myself more than I love them. I picked up one of my kids after a Bible study one morning only to have her erupt in a fit of tears when I told her to put on her coat. As the hallway began to fill and her teacher started singing a song about obedience (which made me want to die on the spot), I quickly muttered, “Fine!” and shoved the coat in my bag. On the walk to the car, I told myself I was just choosing my battles. But the truth is, I was choosing to act in my best interest instead of hers. Of course it was in her best interest to wear the coat in the middle of January, but more importantly, it was in her best interest to learn that defiance reaps discipline, and obedience reaps blessing. The Bible says that failing to discipline our children is like setting our hearts on putting them to death (Pro 19:18). It is the opposite of love, in fact Proverbs refers to it as a form of hatred: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Pro 13:25). Ouch! How’s that for a convicting verse? When I abdicate my authority to save face, I am loving myself more than my children.
I’m swayed by the opinions of the world. Several months ago, an article on my blog gained widespread criticism. It used the d-word (discipline) and it taught that children are born sinful, two things I quickly learned are not popular! While some people shared their differing opinions respectfully, there were many who did not. Months later, my heart still beats faster when I think about the influx of hate mail. I was attacked on the two fronts I hold most dear–being a mother and being a Christian. For several weeks, as I cried and processed the comments, I didn’t discipline my children at all. I was terrified that standing up to them was somehow abusive. In the end, it was my husband who helped root me, once more, in Scripture–an unchanging, solid ground in an ever-changing culture.
I’m earthly minded, instead of eternity minded. In the humdrum of daily living, it’s hard to remember that there’s more at stake than soggy cereal and wasted toilet paper. But as I read the Word, I’m constantly reminded that the call to follow Christ is not for the faint of heart! It requires denying our flesh, loving Jesus more than anything else, suffering for Him even to the point of death, and enduring until the end. Which means I must prepare my children to be persecuted. I must teach them to live for a greater purpose than pleasure. To do things even when they don’t want to do them, because they’re living for Someone whom the Bible calls us to love supremely. The crazy thing is, all this teaching takes place in the humdrum moments. It’s a lifestyle, which means our home is a training ground with eternal purposes, for eternal rewards. If the goal is simply to get them in bed by 8pm, then it doesn’t really matter whether or not you stand your ground in the details. But if the goal is teaching them to love and submit to the authority of Christ, then it does.
I fail to recognize abdication of authority as sin against God. When I was an education major, a Christian professor told me that our authority as a teacher comes directly from God Himself. Therefore, exercising godly authority is not merely an issue of being effective or maintaining order, it’s an issue of obedience to God. When I learned this, it changed the conviction with which I embraced my authority. As a parent, it’s easy to forget that the calling to be in authority over our children is a divine calling, invented and issued by God (Eph 6:1-3, Ex 20:12, I Tim 3:4-5). Slowly and uncomfortably, I am learning that to give it up for the sake of convenience, appearance, or my own feelings, is nothing short of sin against my Maker.
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