It is my responsiblity to teach our church's "family sunday school" this week and our little curiculum book has me teaching Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may go well with you, and that you may have a long life on the earth.
Can you believe this is my verse? If anyone knows me, they know that this is my swan song for parenting advice. Well, actually, the thing I am actually known for saying is "obey mommy the first time" (swat-swat). (Please, no hate mail for the spanking reference...let's agree to disagree for the sake of the limited blog space available.) "To delay is to disobey" is another phrase my kids could repeat in their sleep.
There are two points in this verse that are eye-popping. First, children are asked to obey and honor. Those words are not synonyms. Oh no, sir. You can obey with your lips and legs, but be extrodinarily dishonoring. Visualize a teenage eyeroll and under-the-breath "What-EVer!" followed by the action you requested. Now you know what I am taking about (because you remember doing it, right). You may have obeyed, but there was no honor in it. And THAT'S NOT what God is asking of His children. Honor comes from the heart. Honor is in the attitude. So be careful, Jenne, that you don't find obedient lips accompanied with a dishonoring heart something acceptable.
Which leads me to the second brilliant point (God's brilliance, not mine), which is in the verse that immediately follows 6:1-3. Eph 6:4, struck a new parenting chord in me. **Warning fellow Cornerstone Sunday School families: spoiler ahead.**
It is hardly appropriate to teach the instructions to children without also including the instructions to parents. Verse 4 says this: Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.
God, in his rich mercy, carefully included these instructions to parents. It demonstrates His deep mercy and compassion. He requires obedience of His children but he also knows our parental fallen nature. Our children are completely subject to our temper and flaws. Our children are at the mercy of Mommy and Daddy from the time they are conceived to the time they leave our home. I am deeply convicted that as I require my children to obey and honor, I must heed these instructions the Lord has for me and my husband.
Exasperation: Nothing you do is right. Nothing you attempt is understood. It is a hopeless place to be. How often do we, as parents, not take the time to bend down and look at the world from our child's perspective, with their limited ability to communicate, their short stature and inexperienced emotions? Truly, taking this bit of instruction "do not exasperate your children" to heart as a parent, requires thought, patience, and humility. Often enough, I think I know what's going on when one of my kids "disobeys." Sometimes I am right on. But sometimes I could not be farther off the mark. And when I am off the mark - when I assume the worst of my child in a situation - when I asked 8 times already to put shoes on and shoes still are not on - and assume discipline is in order I could be in danger of draining the hope out of my child. When all it would have taken was a glance around before the spanking to see that the shoes he was trying to get on were actually getting too small and his little muscles just could not squiggle the footwear in place nor could his youthful attention span outlast the task, I have exasperated him.
Thank you, Lord for revealing Your heart for the family: obedient children who honor their parents, and parents who are careful to display mercy, patience, and humility to their children. I am so thankful that You made our children to be vibrant and resiliant so that they can easily overcome the common mistakes You knew we would make when You decided to entrust us with Your most vulnerable creation.
For some book ideas on dealing with the heart issues, check out Ginger Plowman's book Don't Make Me Count to Three, and Diane Moore's book Parenting the Heart of Your Child. And for some great encouragement for those who struggle with exasperating the kids, I enjoyed Grace-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel.