Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sharing faith with our children (Part 2)

I have two brothers. I am two years younger than Toby, eight years younger than Brent. We love each other and over many years we've played, laughed, dreamed, supported one another. When we were younger, we said stupid things to one another, when Mom or Dad weren't around, like "I'm gonna kill you!" as we rushed another with fiery eyes and spit flying. We'd wrestle until we were tired, then come up for air and wonder what game we could play next.

I don't think any of us considered actually killing one another. But that was the story of the first family in the created world.

The first parents on earth were Adam and Eve. How did they parent? What hints do we have about them as parents, does it matter, and what did they do? Perhaps Eve feels vindicated, that she was made from man's body yet now, she says, with God's help has produced a hu-man, and he was called Cain. Cain sounds like the Hebrew verb for produce.

With the birth of Cain in Genesis 4:1 is the beginning of the family in the world.

After Abel was born, jealousy and anger set upon Cain, and rather than master it, Cain chose to master his brother Abel, and he killed him.

Adam and Eve are the parents of the first murderer, and the text says nothing about their grief or reaction to this murder. This is a curious omission. Why would a parent's grief over one son killing another escape mention in Genesis by Moses and other compilers? With Abel, the first victim of murder, and Cain the first murderer, wouldn't Adam and Eve be distraught? Might that have shaped how they viewed the whole business of parenting from then on? God drove Cain away. Adam and Eve had the perfect garden home, two sons, and now they had nothing.

What can we learn about sharing faith with our children from the early creation and fall story? These reflections are not intended to give us "proven" parenting tips but to allow us the vantage point of Scripture as it speaks to our places as fathers and mothers, as it invites us into the story of the broken creation--not just the first parents whose experiment in life and in parenting didn't go as planned, but also God, the Father's creation didn't go as planned. What can we learn about God's parenting, how he reacted to sin? We'll take a look at that next post.

One of my best friends in Uganda, Daniel Mwaza, asked me a question I'll never forget. We were talking about the deaths of so many children in Uganda due to AIDS, dehydration, polio, and malaria. He must have sensed something in me, a desire to know the heart of a Ugandan parent, to understand how they value their children. He asked, "Do you think that because we have more children than you whites and more die, that we care for them any less, that we grief any less than you would if your child dies?"

What has shaped your parenting? What early experiences in life or in parenting or from your own parents? What death of a child or terrible act has re-directed the way you parent? Does the Bible story have anything to say to us, the experiences of Adam and Eve and their descendants? Finally, what does all this have to say about how we share faith with our children?

6 Comments:

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Fajita said...

I must be keenly aware of the role anger plays in my parenting. Naturally overdoing it is not a good idea. I fear ever getting angry at my children because I have experienced what distance anger can wedge between a parent and a child. It's a tough repair.

At the same time, eliminating anger from parenting is not healthy either. Balance (not flattened or emotionaless), of any emotion, in parents is important for children to observe, expoerience and feel.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger Shawn said...

Greg:
What an appropriate topic. we have been discussing these things in the prayer breakfast that I attend. I agree with Chris, anger can drive a wedge in between a parent and a child and can make instruction a difficult hurdle to leap. I just pray that in the midst of discipline that my children can see the face of a father that loves them and cares deeply for them and there development.
When you wrote about events that had an impact on your life while growing up......I remember that when I was about 8 or 9, my Dad called the "family meeting" and told us that he had resigned from his position as Department Chairman. My Father had been working at the same community college since it opened its doors and had gradually worked his way up through the department and finally had his hard work rewarded with a promotion to head of the department. He stayed in that position for about a year and quickly realized that the demands of the positon pulled him away from his family more than he was going to tolerate. There were late nights full of meetings and class teaching assignments that made him miss church with the family. So, he had to make a decision...he had to either continue and expect his family to adjust and understand or he was going to have to step down from that position to allow him to be with his family more consistently. Well, he decided that his family and his influence there was going to drive his decision. That family meeting lasted all of 5 minutes and it changed my life for the better. It made me want to commit the same things to my family and to be willing to make career choices that gave me the family time that I desired. Hopefully, my children will see these things in me and will not be swallowed up by the worlds success standards to have more and make more. I want them to see that happiness is found in Christ alone.
See you Friday, Greg. Tell you worthless cousin to get his act together. Remember......fear the construction zone.

Shawn

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger john alan turner said...

Over and over -- throughout the Old Testament -- there are stories of good parents who have lousy kids. And there are stories of terrible parents whose kids turn out to be Josiah.

There are no guarantees. Proverbs are not promises. God is not a vending machine. Success -- in parenting or otherwise -- is not judged best by results but by faithfulness.

 
At 11:13 AM, Blogger pegc said...

I agree with John Alan Turner.

We believe we have had "success" with our children. Both are grown and very happy. We have two grandchildren that are exceptionally great kids! (And not just because they are my grandchildren!!)

I know that most of the influence of how I raised my kids was brought to me by my own parents. My parents also had foster babies and so we always had a baby in the house while I was growing up. My parents lost a baby themselves, which prompted the foster care. I appreciate my upbringing and wanted to imulate that as much as possible. But.....

I do believe that children are their own person with their own identity and it is up to us to search out the best methods, ways and interaction with them to bring them into their own. It is a challenge and I think we do a dis-service when we don't prepare parents for parenting. We have got to do a better job in the church and communities to prepare for parenting. We have believed far too long that it just happens!

We learn by example and often that example is not a good one. So we have to discern what is helpful and what is harmful.

Consistentency with children and boundaries that they know are most important.

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Clint said...

Shawn,

I resemble that cousin comment.

Tomorrow I plan to attend a burial of a 4 year old boy. He is the son of a childhood friend and classmate of mine. I can tell you that this little boy's death has made me consider how blessed I am with my 3 children. I don't want to waste any opportunities I have to be the best father I can be. I know my time with them is short either way.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Robert said...

The greatest parenting lesson I learned in 2005 came at the end of the year, and was taught to me by my duaghter. It's a lesson that I need a refresher course in, nd I won't long forget.

My daughter went with me to help set up for our churches Christmas Eve celebration. Specific details for the evening were being developed on the spur, and time was getting very short. It was decided to offer communion family style. To add a festive element to the communion, and to accommodate the numbers we were expecting, it was decided to create eight tablescapes that looked alike around the worship area.

I quickly decorated table number one and decided to replicate that design for the other 7. Ever the task manager and being shorthanded, I enlisted my 8 year old daughters help. She was so eager to assist. Pressed for time and knowing the amount of work to be done I succumbed to the internal pressure to follow my clock, not my compass.

I gathered the necessary supplies: table cloths, wreathes, candles, candle sticks, gold filigree, and glass communion settings. In my mind I visualized these eight tablescapes bordering the room, bathing it in the crimson red glow of the 96 red glass globes and 36 golden pillars I had selected to be the centerpiece of our festive decor.

As I started the rounds of going from one table to the next with each identical element, I forgot that it was my 8 year old who was my most valuable assistant. She was struggling to keep up and asked if she could just focus her attention on one table in particular. So after instructing her to copy the elements of deign as set up on the sample table she eagerly began to decorate.

After about 20 minutes of detailed attention to most of the tablescapes I noticed that her table did not look the same as the others. She had chosen red filigree for her design and made an unusual shape as a table runner. She also decided that a more elaborate candle stick would look better than the matching ones I was using on the other tablescapes.

I carefully approached that table, quickly trying to figure out how to compliment her design but try to get her to see the importance of having every table look alike so that the ambience and continuity of the design would help set a cohesive and festive look throughout the room. As we talked I began to disassemble her chaotic design, removing the mismatched candle sticks and replacing the red filigree. And as I did, the hurt and disappointment in her face swelled into ornament sized tears spilling over her eyelids.

I immediately went into to comforting Dad mode, pretending to set aside my goals for a wonderful appeal to the room and focus on my daughter. And for a moment she had hope. Hope that I would yield and let her design stand. Hope that I would let her artistic endeavors stay. But, selfishly, I was only interested in presenting my case again for a cohesive and festive look throughout the room.

My daughter saw right through me. Her tears of dismay turned to tears of hurt and anger. Her inability to understand our time crunch, and other obstacles to the evening’s events just enraged my already over focused mind. In a crushing blow I said, “If you can’t do it my way, I would rather not have your help at all”.

I love my daughter more than my own life. I adore her in every way a father should: but with that one sentence, my daughter fell apart. In that one instance I knew that I had become the type of churchy-person I can’t stand: a church monger who insists on conformity in the name of unity. In those 16 words I had summed up the very thoughts of Christian conformists whose oppression I have fought so hard to climb out from under these past 7 years.

It was also in this infinite second that I realized that my daughter had encountered God’s Holy spirit, for only the Holy Spirit living within her could have put me, and all of my 37 years of God knowledge in my place, because in her reply to my assault she utterly defeated me, as well as Satan, who had tried to use my busyness to find a foothold in an evening of worshiping God’s own son.

While I was only focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing moment, my daughter was focused on creating a beautiful artistic tribute to her Lord. As she ran from me to find a quite place to cry, she turned and said through a tear stained face, “God did not make us all to be alike. Why do I have to make this table look like yours. God made us all different, so why do I have to be like you?” Then she disappeared.

Embarrassed and ashamed I left her table and returned to my job. As I worked a spirit of conviction fell upon me. How is it that my eight year old child so clearly understands what some eighty and twenty eight year olds do not? Why is it that I so quickly reverted to old behaviors to accomplish my task. I’ve been around children long enough to know how unique each is. I know my daughter’s heart and her desire to be singularly distinctive. Her words shocked me as they flew out of her mouth. They reaffirmed to me the role God has for her, and me, to play in His kingdom: to continue to stand out and be different.

I respected her time to cry and contemplate her felling. Within a very few minutes I was humbled on my knees, before my child, asking for forgiveness and a reassuring hug. Both of which were graciously given and anxiously received. And with my blessing and encouragement she returned to work on her singularly unique tablescape.

The Christmas Eve worship was very encouraging. We had an overflow crowd. Extra communion had to be prepared at the last minute. Additional chairs were hastily set up. The room was beautifully lit in a warm crimson glow. Many compliments were made about the festive color scheme and unique atmosphere created by the candles, pillars, flowers, and richly colored cloth. And with each compliment I looked over at table number two and acknowledged God with a special thank you for the lesson I learned that night.

God’s son was sent as a special gift to each of us, regardless of what we look like or how we act or how we are raised to know Him. I knew that. I know that. But it took my own iniquities and my daughter’s willingness to let God’s Holy Spirit use her to drive that point home, again. We have each been created for unique purpose in a unique time.

One of my personal heroes, Barbara Henry, said that, “Children constantly teach teachers — by exposing their inner selves. Children are so pure — and so honest, and so simple. Children constantly are teaching teachers lessons of character, honesty, and integrity.” I am thankful for the gift God gave me that night by revealing His presence to my though my child. I pray that in 2006, and beyond, I will continue to seek out my unique purpose and help others find theirs as well.

 

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