Friday, August 29, 2014

The Challenge of Parenting: Four benefits of child training

I was 40 years old when I found out we were expecting another little bundle of joy. And that is exactly what we got: a bundle of joy that cried a lot, napped rarely, and hated that Bumbo seat that was supposed to keep him happy.

Still, Levi was adorably cute and he was ours. I did spend some time scratching my head wondering why God didn't give me an "easy" baby in my advanced years. I kept telling the Lord, "I don't have the energy for this." But He didn't seem to think my energy was an issue. The Father had different ideas. He believed I needed that smile that a baby brings. He believed I needed to hear first words again, see first steps again, and feel those sweet little arms around my neck.

God also gave Kevin and me a task: train this child. God gives the same task to all parents. I don't get to skip out because I'm old or because I'm young.

Levi loves to swim.
As parents, we train our children whether we know it or not. If I sit by and ignore my child, I'm training him to believe he doesn't matter. If I scream at my child, I'm training him to use his volume and his anger to get the attention he wants. Training happens. But I want to be intentional.

Here are four things I've discovered about intentional training:

(1) Child training makes me aware of my need for God every ... single ... day. I thought that because I was older and wiser, I was prepared. I was more prepared than I would have been, but I'm not strong enough, kind enough, smart enough to be all my child needs, which leads me to number 2.

(2) Child training makes my child aware that he needs God. Because I am not perfect (strong enough, smart enough, kind enough and able to be in multiple places at once), I often disappoint my children. And that's a good thing. In this world of "perfect" moms, my kids need to know I am not one. I am human and I will fail. I want to point my children to God when others fail them. Life is full of little and big disappointments. If I can teach my child to weather these, he will have a gift that will serve him the rest of his days.

(3) Child training teaches me patience, persistence, consistency, endurance, mercy, grace, gentleness, wisdom, goodness, self-control, and a host of other character traits that I have not perfected. I know perfection won't happen here, but I can grow. If I am teaching my children to memorize Scripture, guess who else is going to memorize Scripture? If I'm telling my kids not to call names, guess who doesn't get to yell, "Idiot!" at a reckless driver? My kids have helped me to learn manners, to stand up straight, to be friendly to others, and to not interrupt. They've helped me to control my temper, wait my turn, and to look for opportunities to help others. I owe much of my emotional and spiritual maturity to the challenge of parenting.

(4) Child training helps me look more earnestly for Christ's imminent return. Some days my sin, my child's sin, and the sins of those around me feels very heavy. On those days when the world looks its worst, I know there is a Day coming when everything will be changed. Wrongs will be made right. Sheep will be separated from goats. And we will enter into a home that our hearts have longed for all of our lives. In the midst of the mess, I have a hope to hold onto.

God in His infinite loving kindness gives us these little ones, His little ones. The Father entrusts helpless infants into our frail and faulty hands as if we are up to the task. He knows we are not, but we are unaware of just how unfit we are as parents, as spouses, as human beings. Parenthood makes us aware in mind-boggling ways.

At times our eyes will be open and we will say, "Yes, Father, thank you for showing me this." Other lessons we will miss His messages to us, so with patience and grace, God will play a rerun until we get the picture.

In the character training of our children, God is really training us.

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