While I was taking a break the last couple of weeks, I went away on vacation with my family 🙂
We listened to alot of music in the car, and I found myself belting out this tune whenever it come on – More Heart, Less Attack by Need to Breathe.
The song lyrics went along with this nugget of wisdom I found in the first few pages of Personalized Promises for Mothers by James Riddle (I always take a pile of books to read, and usually get through a good chunk of pages before the vacation is over):
“The Word says to train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4 KJV) Notice that nurture comes first. If we show our children love, spend time with them, become involved in what they are doing, and teach them with a heart of compassion, we will eliminate most of the need to discipline them.”
I really resonated with these words.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines discipline as:
control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed and punishing bad behavior
a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders
behavior that is judged by how well it follows a set of rules or orders
This is how I used to mother my boys when they were younger. Rules, order, obedience, punishment, control.
It was a struggle to figure out what I heard about this verse:
When my kids were going through their darkest times – trying to figure out the world around them, their place in it, all their emotions, temptations, and relationships – I was expecting even more of them in blindly following social norms. Somewhere along the way I started to realize this was how their whole world was revolving – at school, on sports teams, even when it came to faith.
They were constantly measured by how well they were adhering to the norms of whatever environment they found themselves in.
And I was missing out on just getting to know my sons.
Don’t get me wrong, of course some rules are required, and there are some social norms that just need to be followed in order to live in our world, but there’s this other Bible verse that has grabbed me and just won’t let me go. Now I’m at the point where I hope it never does. I think freedom and full life are waiting in this verse…
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
So I’ve learned that a shepherd’s rod is usually used to gently guide the sheep, that a shepherd would never hurt his flock intentionally, that I am a sheep myself and my Shepherd loves me in the most humble ways, and that my Shepherd is so patient as He guides me on the path He has laid out for me.
I want to be the same for my children.
I’ve learned to pick my battles. I’ve learned when to stick with something and when to let it go. I’ve learned that children are full of wisdom and good ideas, and often compromise is OK. I don’t need to be right, I don’t need to be perfect, and I’m human too. And my boys need to know that. They also need to know they are loved, respected, important, and valued – no matter what age they are.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – I Timothy 4:12
I was trying to be someone else with all the rules and rigidity. I was trying to be my personal concept of what a good mother & pastor’s wife would be.
It was getting pretty complicated, and I was liking myself less and less.
So I decided to Simply Live more often. To remember more of who I was instead of trying to be someone else. To remember how much I loved children and loved their fresh perspectives, their honesty and openness, their caring, generous, and forgiving hearts. I let them show me what their world looked like – it was often so beautiful.
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
It’s not about winning or losing, or being in charge, or getting my way. And it’s not about letting my kids have the upper hand either. It’s about doing life together.
As far as I can tell, they know I still get the last word, I’m still the parent, and somebody needs to make the final decisions if no common ground can be found.
For the most part, they respect that. There might be some complaining and sometimes there’s still a “punishment”, but they can usually see it coming a mile away if that happens.
Sometimes they even choose the punishment. And sometimes it’s more harsh than what I was thinking!
But I think it’s all a part of raising young people to be old people who will one day make all their own decisions, and live their own lives, and be totally self-sufficient, and contribute to the world around them.
Not conforming, not cookie-cutter, not always what is expected, free to be themselves, change the world as only they can, and have lots of fun along the way.
God made us all so unique, and I don’t want to miss out on truly knowing my sons.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” – John 10:14
Just as I can trust and rely on my Shepherd, so I want to parent my boys in a similar way.
I want to gently guide, humbly correct course when headed for danger, share the path ahead, reminisce about the path behind, look for green pastures and blue skies, pay attention to any fences that are in place for our protection, and explore the wide-open fields together.