Thursday, October 04, 2007

When Nothing Works

I've learned more from parenting my son than probably all of the books and articles I've read on the subject combined. Well, perhaps more accurately, I've understood, in a real way, what many of the Biblical concepts some of those books have addressed really mean in real life.

Sometimes I've thought, "I wonder why things can sometimes be so hard with him?" I don't want to give the impression to the reader that my son is a nightmare, doing drugs and sneaking girls in the window in the middle of the night, stealing from us, and all that kind of stuff. Thankfully, that isn't the case, but there have been some particular challenges with him which seem to persist. I won't get into detail, here, because it is private and... well... its not the point of why I'm writing this.

Sometimes, like lately, I get so frustrated. This particular time I felt myself lamenting inside, "Nothing works. Nothing is working. Correction hasn't worked. Taking things away hasn't worked. Talking hasn't worked. Even getting so frustrated that I give him a 10 minute lecture hasn't worked." I really thank God that I saw this, today, but can you see what the implicit thining is behind my frustration?

I am doing all those things (correcting, taking things away, warning, even threatening and lecturing) with the aim of forcing or guaranteeing or manipulating certain results. They may be behavioral results, like that he does what he is supposed to or stops doing this one particular thing which he can't seem to keep himself from doing. They may even be heart-results, like that his heart would be changed concerning some particular sins in his life.

I do agree that, as parents, our ultimate concern is the heart. We should not gear our parenting toward manipulating the right "results" (behavioral). But even with the heart, we can't try to manipulate our children to produce the right sort of heart-results, either. In fact, our job is not to change our children's heart. We can't. It is impossible. God changes hearts.

So, I now see that, implicitly, my aim in being his father has been, at least for this issue, all about producing the right results -whether in behavior or in heart-attitude. That is the implicit thinking behind the "Nothing is working!" cry for help. But my job is not to do those things. My job is not to craftily or forcibly guarantee the desired behavior, nor is it to somehow alter his heart (which I can't do to begin with).

I think my job is more like correcting him for sin, putting in place restrains, when necessary, to protect him from himself (or others from him), helping him discern his own heart, giving him an authentic, godly example, enjoying him, teaching Him God's Word, reminding him that he stands before God, pointing him to Jesus Christ, and praying like crazy that God will use those things to work in his heart. My goal isn't even primarily that he behave himself or be a hard worker, though those are certainly important things. It is that he see himself before God and know Him -something that I cannot produce or guarantee. In other words, I am just an instrument -a very humbling truth. May I be a faithful one!

When I forget this distinction, I end up lording it over him. I end up frustrated, and he probably ends up exasperated. So, thank You, LORD, for frustrating me to the point where I stopped to think and pray, and was illuminated a bit.

Some might say, "But is it wrong for me to want my child to behave a certain way?" or "Is it wrong for me to want my child's heart to love what it ought to love?" Of course it isn't, and I'm not saying it is. However, when you want those things so much that you think you can manipulate and produce them, yourself, then although you may in some cases succeed with the first, though sometimes with undesirable consequences depending on how you do it, you will not succeed with the second. We are instruments, and our "success" isn't necessarily contingent upon producing the right results because, ultimately, we can't. That doesn't remove our responsibility; it gives us a necessary and humbling perspective which will guard us from trying to be god over our kids, exasperating them and frustrating ourselves to no end.

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