March 18, 2013

Expectations for Obedience

This week we will be hearing from Valerie!  Valerie is a friend of mine from college.  She and her husband both love the Lord and are passionate about serving Him with their lives.  Here are a few thoughts from Valerie that I hope will be as encouraging to you as they were to me.

I am honored to be the Mommy of two incredible kids.  Judah just turned 3 and is so much fun.  He loves making up songs, “fixing” things, and reading books.  When you hear him speak, there is no doubt that we live in the South! J  Mira just turned 1 (on the same day that Judah turned 3), and like most 1 year olds she loves to explore and get into everything!  Everyone comments about how she’s always smiling, but she can get pretty sassy when she doesn’t get what she wants.  Although they bring us more joy than we could have ever imagined, they have also made us realize how much we desperately need God’s wisdom and guidance every day!

One of our biggest challenges so far with Judah has been in the area of obedience.  What should our expectations be?  How should we respond when he disobeys us?  My natural instinct (or maybe just what I’ve always seen modeled by others) has been to repeat myself a little louder, bribe, and/or threaten if needed.  At times I have even ignored his disobedience, dismissing it as a minor offense.  But what am I really teaching him when I do these things?  Everything I do or don’t do teaches him something whether or not that is my intention.   I think most of you would agree that constantly having to repeat directions to a child gets old very fast.  More importantly, what does the bible have to say about children obeying their parents?

Ephesians 6:1-3 states: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’- which is the first commandment with a promise- ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”  I began to see the importance of teaching Judah that when he obeys and honors his daddy and me, he’s ultimately obeying and honoring God.  In Ginger Plowman’s book, “Don’t Make Me Count to Three”, she describes how we should teach children to obey “all the way, right away, and with a happy heart” (p.117).  She uses scripture to support her convictions.  After reading her book, as well as Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, my husband and I realized we needed to make some changes.  We realized that we had not been consistently teaching Judah what God’s standard was; therefore, we had been missing opportunities to point him towards the gospel message.  We began to practice the principals laid out in the books because we saw them supported by God’s Word.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it.  Teaching this concept of complete, immediate, and joyful obedience is HARD!  The first few weeks were especially exhausting because we didn’t see immediate improvement.  However, eventually we did begin to see some fruit of our efforts.  We began to notice that Judah was choosing to do what we asked him to do the majority of the time, which meant we didn’t have to spank him as much. (Praise the Lord!)  Now, does he always obey like he should?  Of course not!  I’m an adult and still disobey the Lord at times.  Thankfully, when he does disobey we have another opportunity to point him to his need for Jesus.  The primary goal is not to have a well-behaved child, but rather to have a child who can see that he is a sinner in need of a Savior.  Our conversation might go something like this:

me:  Judah, why did you choose to keep playing after I asked you to clean up your toys?
him:  I didn’t want to clean up.  I wanted to keep playing.
me:  Do you think God wanted you to keep playing or to obey Mommy?
him:  Obey Mommy.
me:  You’re right.  (I might remind him what Ephesians 6:1 says.)
*After I spank him, he apologizes, and I forgive and hug him.  I remind him that we need God’s help to obey because we can’t do it on our own.  I pray for him and then give him an opportunity to obey again by cleaning up his toys. 

I don’t want to give you the impression that we’ve got this obedience thing all figured out and are some kind of experts now because nothing could be further from the truth!  We’re still learning every day, and we still have days where we end up falling back into the cycle of repeating ourselves, bribing, or threatening (because we’re just plain lazy sometimes to be honest).  However, thankfully we serve a patient and gracious God who gives us the strength and power to keep moving forward! 

Even if you do not completely agree with my views on obedience that Mr. Tripp and Ms. Plowman helped to shape, I encourage you to still read their books, as well as search out scripture on your own.  Obedience is just one of many topics that is addressed, and I feel sure that you will be able to find plenty of wisdom for pointing your child’s heart toward Christ.  After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?! 


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