“Do you really want your children to grow up to be just like you?”
Probably not. As you reflect on your own attitudes, words and behaviors there are undoubtedly some things, perhaps many things, that you absolutely do not want showing up in your children’s lives. And yet – they do.
A few years ago I shared a message entitled, “Love Is Not Easily Angered.” One of the scripture verses I shared was Proverbs 22:24-25: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Wise counsel for adults – but I wanted the parents in the room to understand that their children, who don’t get to choose whether or not they associate with them, are going to learn their ways.
Over the last couple of weeks I have listened to many parents share some of the frustrations of child rearing. They have recounted numerous situations of their kids arguing and fighting over minor things; of a child displaying excessive anger or sadness; of times when their youngster has said some horrible things about him or herself after failing to accomplish some task successfully; and sometimes it has been a story of simple rebellion. Now all of the parents relating these things have great hearts and godly desires, so I have asked them how they responded, what did they say? And most every time the guidance given was right on the mark for the child. All the correct words where being said in an effort to change unacceptable, detrimental or unhealthy attitudes, words and behaviors.
However, ironically (and consistently), the very challenge in the child’s life was also a challenge in the parent’s life (e.g., parents who regularly fight over minor things; or do not appropriately deal with their own anger or sadness; or believe and say horrible things about themselves because they feel inadequate in some task; or are in rebellion to God’s direction for life). And the very counsel given to the child needs to be embraced in the adult’s life – but isn’t. When I would point this out most people were somewhat surprised. Their attention was so focused on their children that they never realized their own need for work in the same areas.
Unquestionably the Bible instructs us to teach and discipline our children. But all the best words will fail in the presence of inconsistent or even contradictory modeling. Perhaps it would be beneficial for us to take some time to list all the ways we really do not want our children to be just like us – and then, instead of trying harder to instruct or discipline these things out of them (as if it were all totally their fault), maybe we should give some time and energy to inviting the Lord to resolve these things in us.
I know you are busy, almost overwhelmingly at time. But I want you to make the best use of your time and energy. Remember the parable of the two woodsmen in a contest to see who could chop down the most trees in a specified amount of time. They would each be given an identical ax to make the competition fair. As the starting gun went off, the first woodsman ran to the first tree and commenced furiously chopping. Intriguingly, the second man sat down, pulled out a file and starting sharpening his ax. Occasionally he would look up at the first man then turn back to his sharpening task. Satisfied, the second man stood up and went to the trees and starting felling them at an amazing pace. Not only did he win the contest but he did so with a lot less energy and effort – because there is nothing more frustrating and futile then chopping with a dull ax.
Might I suggest that we would do well to ask the Lord to help us sharpen our axes before we take on the trees. It is not too late.