Parenting Like God
Raising two small boys under age 5 has me going back to Hebrews 12:5-11 again and again. This passage is a spoonful of encouragement on those days that are especially brimful of "teaching moments" if you catch my drift.
Here's the gist of Hebrews 12:5-11. Don't "despise the chastening of the Lord." God disciplines those He loves. If we receive chastening at God's hand, then that's proof we are His children. We honor and respect our earthly parents, so we should likewise, and even more so, reverence our Heavenly Father.
The logic is lovely. God is the Perfect Parent. I want to be a good parent, so I try to copy Him. He disciplines and corrects His children. I must do the same. He disciplines out of love for His children. I should do it out of love, too.
As a mother, I particularly like verse 11: "Now, no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
I remind myself of this when I'm doing the dirty work of discipline — enforcing much-needed (yet much-disliked) rules, allowing the boys to experience the natural consequences of their actions, and correcting their deliberate disobedience and rebelliousness.
"This isn't going to be pretty," I remind myself, "Not for them, and not for me. But it can have a happy ending."
Sometimes, I see the happy ending right away. After a few tears and a brief conversation with mommy, my boys run off smiling and ready to "try again." Other times, I feel like a failure, like I've done more harm than good.
But, then I have to remind myself that the "peaceable fruit of righteousness" doesn't ripen overnight. These tender plants are still in training. If I teach my boys to respect my earthly authority now, then, later on, it will hopefully seem very natural to respect God's authority when the choice is their own.
But, I'm realizing more and more that disciplining my kids requires an equal measure of self-discipline on my part. If I'm asking them to submit to me as the authority, then I'd better be submitting myself to God's authority. When I'm in the act of teaching and correcting my boys, I find myself in the uncanny position of being taught and corrected by the Lord in the very same lessons that I'm trying to impart.
- I can't teach them not to throw tantrums if I'm losing my own temper on them.
- I can't teach them to speak respectfully if my own rash words cut and wound.
- I can't teach them to pay attention if all they ever get from me is partial attention.
- And, a real biggie: I can't expect them to behave a certain way if I haven't taken the time to teach them how.
The list goes on and on. I expect a lot of my tiny tots. I should expect more of myself. I shouldn't be shocked if God expects even more of me than I do. Every day, it's becoming clearer and clearer that God is using my children to show me who He wants me to be. He's using me to discipline them, yes, but He's using them to discipline (to disciple) me and draw me to a closer walk with Him.
Sometimes I do get weary of the Lord's chastening (Another tantrum to deal with? Don't lose your mind. The snack bag erupted all over the floor during sacrament at church. Everybody stay calm!) but this passage in Hebrews reminds me not to despise it and to not wilt under it. It may not look pretty right now, but the end result will be a harvest of righteousness and peace.
So, what does this blog article have to do with you, patient reader? You are God's child, so He is disciplining you in some way. He may not be using toddlers to discipline you. (If He is, then, hey-hey, call me!) Chances are good that He's using other means. What is it teaching you, and are you submitting to it as a child submits to a parent? I hope this gives you as much food for thought as it has for me.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.