Summary: Part 3 in series Relationships That Work. This message looks at the challenge of raising spiritually healthy children.
Discipling Our Children
Relationships that Work, part 3
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
June 3, 2007
I want to begin this morning by calling your attention to the title of today’s message. Chris, would you show that please? Notice it is not “disciplining” our children, but rather “discipling” our children. They come from the same root word, which means “to learn.” When we discipline our children, we teach them how to act and speak properly, and hopefully how to exercise proper control over themselves. But when we disciple our children, we teach them that God loves them, that God created them for a reason and has a purpose for their lives.
I think these two happen together and enhance one another, but it is not discipline but rather discipleship I want to talk to you about this morning. In the words of Haley Scarnato from American Idol, it’s easy to just “clock in and clock out” with our children. It’s easy to just drift through life. They live in our house, after all. We can’t have every moment be super intense. The routines in our lives – get the kids up, supervise them getting ready for school, get them on the bus or drop them off, arrange pickup, get dinner on, homework, evening stuff back up at the school, set out clothes for the next school day, in bed, repeat – the routines seem to offer us plenty to do. It takes discipline for our children to get through every day, to meet all the obligations they have. As parents we have to make sure they know what to do and that they do it, on top of disciplining ourselves to get our own stuff done! But I wonder if maybe sometimes we overlook some of the most important things. I wonder if as we discipline our children, we sometimes neglect to really disciple them.
Parenting is a sensitive issue. First of all, it’s something few of us ever receive any formal training for. You’ve heard and thought a thousand times before, probably, how strange it is that you have to spend the first thirteen years of your life, at least, in school learning the skills you will need to get along in this world and that probably in that entire time you will not learn much, if anything, about parenting. Nor will you learn about marriage. You’ll spend between 13 and 17 years going to school, but a lifetime being a spouse and parent, yet you will receive pretty much zero training for those things – unless you seek out that training on your own.
Because most of us are never taught how to parent, what do we do? We do the only thing we possibly COULD do, which is parent our children the way our parents parented us! Now for some of our children, this is very bad news. My guess is that those of you who did not receive good parenting already know this, and are probably frustrated every time you say or do something that reminds you of your mom or dad. Yet because we receive so little training, we just don’t know how to do this job. Which is a huge bummer, because when we worked at McDonald’s, someone taught us to flip a hamburger. At the record store where I worked in the early 90’s, I was taught how to help a customer find obscure music. We all receive precise training for anything we do in this world that is worth doing. But when it comes to the thing we do that is worth more than anything else we’ll ever undertake, that will make the biggest impact on this world that we will ever leave, it’s sink or swim. Get married. Have yourself some sex and make a baby. Go to the hospital and have the baby and listen to the sage advice of the nurses for a few hours. Then go home and guess what? You’re on your own. Your wheelchair pusher guy standing there on the curb, waving you off. Good luck to you. I hope you don’t stink at this. Few of us ever learn to be a parent. Except in the school of hard knocks. And because few of us ever learn, most of us go into this completely ignorant of what is going to happen and how to deal with it when it does.
Now we have children, and they are doing a lot of the things kids do, like pooping and eating and making messes and pulling CD’s off the rack and breaking things and getting high fevers from hell that scare us to death and keeping our house in a constant state of disarray, no matter how hard we try to keep it clean. We still don’t really know much about parenting, but we know two things. First, our life has never been harder, more exhausting, or more chaotic. Second, we still can’t believe how much we love those little buggers. Parents, you know what I mean. It’s like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. We all know we’d jump in front of a train for them, take a bullet for them, do absolutely anything to keep them alive. That’s easy. The problem is helping them learn how to live. How do we do that? How do we muster the patience we need when we’re tired and frustrated and maybe having serious intimacy issues with our spouse because we haven’t been out together in six or eight months. And we’re out of money, and we’re beginning to think we might as well take a cot to the doctor’s office and set up camp, because the next ailment is probably just hours away. Are you with me? We’re giving our lives to keep them alive, and as hard as that is, my friends, it’s still easier than helping them learn to live, because that’s what happens between the lines. It’s what we teach them by how we react to stress, which they are the main cause of! It’s what they learn from us when they know a friend has mistreated us, or by how we act toward our spouse in front of them. It’s whether we ever have time to really look at their report card or help with their homework, whether we make it to their games or work through them all, whether or not they can come home at the end of the day and know that no matter what they have faced that day, no matter how vicious the world may have been, they are safe with us at home. That they are respected and taken care of and valued and affirmed and encouraged and supported. As my kids get older and our family gets busier, I come to value our family prayer time before bed even more. Sometimes it’s the first time we’ve actually all been together in the same room. But one way or another, I usually get to end my day in a room with the four people who mean the most to me in this world. And we end it in prayer, thanking God for each other, talking about the small things that make up real life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.