In Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley tells of a group of fishermen who landed in a secluded bay in Alaska and had a great day fishing for salmon. But when they returned to their sea plane, they found it aground because of the fluctuating tides. They waited until the next morning for the tides to comes in, but when they took off, they only got a few feet into the air before crashing back into the sea. Being aground the day before had punctured one of the pontoons, and it had filled up with water.
The sea plane slowly began to sink. The passengers, three men and a 12-year-old son of one of the men, prayed and then jumped into the icy cold waters to swim to shore. The riptide was strong, but two of the men reached the shore exhausted. They looked back, and saw the father with his arms around his son being swept out to sea.
The boy had not been strong enough to make it. The father was a strong swimmer, but he had chosen to die with his son rather than to live without him.”
Morley went on to say: “The most important thing my dad ever taught me is that there are more important things than me. My major effort as a parent must be devoted to my children. If they turn out badly, nothing I could do in the public eye would have any meaning.’
That remind me of Paul’s statement: Romans 9:1-3 (ESV) I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
The Message renders these verses this way: Romans 9:1-3 (MSG) At the same time, you need to know that I carry with me at all times a huge sorrow. 2 It’s an enormous pain deep within me, and I’m never free of it. I’m not exaggerating—Christ and the Holy Spirit are my witnesses. It’s the Israelites… 3 If there were any way I could be cursed by the Messiah so they could be blessed by him, I’d do it in a minute. They’re my family.
Parents give us a sense of self-worth and confidence. It’s advice we can pass on to any parent: Morley: “They always answered my question ‘Do you think I can do it?’ with ‘Of course you can.’ And they were never too busy to give me attention. Even as a teenager, I thought I must be the most entertaining company in the world because my folks loved to be with me–and with each of my siblings. It didn’t occur to me until years later that they chose to spend time with us.”
There are some Christian homes which are no better than some of the worst of secular homes; affairs there can be in utter chaos and confusion. Instead of orderly, love-filled peaceful homes, they can be battlegrounds from morning to night, arenas of constant bickering and squabbling and fighting and rebellion.
Deuteronomy 6:1-6 (ESV)
1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it,
2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
That is a word addressed to parents. The place to begin, the place to recover the proper functioning of the home, is with the parents. We must begin to heal ourselves before God in order to heal our children. There is no escape from that. We cannot pass on to them something which we ourselves are not. Parents are models, and children will invariably follow the model.
They will live with us in exactly the same way we have lived with them. So we must begin the correction with ourselves. We must discover and develop our own personhood before we can help our children to discover and develop theirs. That is absolutely essential.
Parents who do not recognize that their first responsibility is to what they are before God, and not to what their children become, will ultimately lose both.
Parents who give everything to their children and ask nothing in return quite unknowingly are teaching their children to expect to have everything done for them, and to give nothing in return. It is no wonder, therefore, that is exactly what so many children expect these days. They have been taught that in the home. So the first step is for parents to begin with themselves.
Now we come to the second step, which is found in the first part of Verse 7 in this great summary passage. Moses said, Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV) Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
This means that along with, and as a result of, obedience to the first step will come this second step. While you are learning to become a person yourself, as a parent, you will at that same time, and in the same process, pass it along to your children. You don’t wait until you have reached ultimate maturity. None of us ever do that anyway. But what you are learning, and while you are learning it, you are passing along to your children.
Some time ago I came to the realization that every day is hut a miniature of life itself, and that a child needs, every day, what a person needs for his whole life. At the beginning of life our needs are obvious — security, a sense of identity, assurance that we belong in a family. Therefore, parents are tremendously important to a child at the beginning of his life.
It occurred to me that this is true also at the beginning of each day, and that every day ought to start with an expression of security, of identity, of appreciation. So in our home we started greeting one another with a hug the first thing in the morning, the first time we meet for the day — just to say, “I love you and you’re important to me, and you belong here.” And it had been wonderful to watch a sense of trust develop, a sense of relaxation in the feeling of a secure home. That’s what God does with us, and this is what is important in the display of love.
We are preparing our children to live lives independent from us, and that, therefore, the acquisition of all the knowledge they will need must start, at least, in the home. It may be continued in school, but the acquisition of all knowledge starts at home:
- We want our children to know the names and the natures of things. This is the beginning of science.
- We want them to know how to count and to reason, and there you have the foundation of mathematics.
- We want them to learn the relationships of cause and effect — why one thing does this, and another does that — and there you have philosophy.
- We want them to learn how to enjoy themselves, so there you have the arts and crafts and sports.
- We want them to learn how to exert their influence properly upon other people, and there you have social sciences coming in.
- We want them to learn how to use their imagination, which brings up the whole realm of literature and drama.
- We want them to learn how to behave themselves responsibly, how to take responsibility for their own actions and not to blame them on somebody else, and there you have the humanities.
- And above everything else — that which no school can ever impart — we want our children to learn how to handle failure and guilt. Nothing plagues human beings more than the sense of failure and the terribly agony of guilt. Therefore, the one thing that Christian parents ought to be responsible for, above all else, is to learn how to handle failure and guilt, and to teach their children how to handle it also.
There is the story of a woman who came to an authority on child raising and asked him, “Sir, when should I begin to teach my child about God?” He said, “How old is your child?” She answered, “Six.” He said, “Madam, hurry home. You’ve already lost five of the most important years!”
Proverbs 22:6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Unfortunately, it is a most misunderstood verse. Most people understand this verse to mean, “If you teach your child the way you want him to live, while he is a child, then, when he has grown up, he will not leave that way.” But, unfortunately, that notion is not confirmed by experience.
What the text says literally is, “Train up a child according to his own way.” What it is referring to is the fact that children are basically different. There is a mystery built into every child. And the job of a parent is to discover the particular form of the mystery which is there in each child — and no two children are the same. There is a creative urge built by the Creator himself into every child. It is usually related to one of the five senses. That is,
- Some children love to see things. They love to look at pictures and to investigate and perceive. They are the ones who become the philosophers and the thinkers, etc.
- Some children are related more to movement. They love to move and they enjoy the feel of movement. They are the ones who build cars and locomotives and airplanes.
- Some will relate to smell and taste, and they are the ones who make good chefs.
- Some like sound, and they become musicians and audio engineers, and so forth.
So what this text is saying is that God has built into every child a uniqueness that is “his/her own way,” and the parents have to find that. And when they find it, and help a child find it, that child will find fulfillment, a fulfillment so rich and full that when he is old he will not leave it. When he has grown up he will have found himself. This is true not only of natural abilities, but of spiritual gifts as well. And the role of a parent is to help him in this discovery.
Here is where love comes in — love which spends time with children, love which watches them, and thinks about them, and leads them out in various exploratory paths to find out what interests them, and what they like, love which gives security and identity, and helps a child find out who he is in an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement. And when these two factors interplay, one against the other — law which regulates, and love which discovers — then, you see, you have the pattern for raising children in a way which will produce God-reliant men and women, able to cope with life the way it was intended to be.
We are going to look at many other concepts as we go along in this series. Some of them will be more specific. Some will teach us how to apply these principles to the various methods of handling the education of children. But I hope we will understand that only as we begin with ourselves, and apply these principles first to ourselves, so that our children can see the changes which are occurring in us, only then can they be passed along to those who are coming behind us.
WORDS TO A GROWN UP SON/DAUGHTER
My hands were busy through the day I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to I didn’t have much time for you.
I’d wash your clothes, I’d sew and cook but when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me please to share your fun I’d say, “A little later, son.”
I’d tuck you in all safe at night and hear your prayers, turn out the light
Then tiptoe softly to the door I wish I’d stayed a minute more.
For life is short, the years rush past A little boy grows up so fast
No longer is he at your side His precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away There are no more games to play no goodnight kiss,
No prayers to hear That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands once busy now lie still The days are long and hard to fill
I wish I might go back and do The little things you asked me to. –Anonymous