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Every morning since he was about 8, my son Dauntless goes out to the chicken coop to collect the eggs. But, this morning was different. He came into the house with a bowl of eggs, shell, and runny yellow yolks all mixed together in a slimy mess, with bits of egg running down his trembling hands. He tripped on the way back to the house.
Brokenness isn’t beautiful. Broken things aren’t beautiful. And, a broken heart definitely isn’t beautiful.
We feel the searing pain of every false smile, faithless friend, disappointment in a spouse, and the hard injustice we see on every side. Life is filled with broken things and, if we’re honest, most of them are on the inside of that person we see in the mirror every morning.
Instinctively, we know there is something better, something whole that life was intended to deliver, but somewhere those plans were destroyed and we live in the aftermath, piecing together disparate parts that don’t fit together so well. And where is the purpose in all that?
Some people speak as if brokenness is beautiful, as if life was intended to be a cubist painting – identifiable as “life” but chunked up, chipped and badly distorted, like a basket of eggs handled by a carless child. A basket of fresh eggs smashed to pieces from a fall is not a good thing. Any child will tell you that.
“You have cancer”, “Your child is severely brain damaged”, “He was killed in a car accident” “Your husband has been cheating on you”, “Your unmarried daughter is pregnant”…. Brokenness is not beautiful. It’s ugly, lonely, disfigured, painful, and perverse.
The mistake is to believe there is no purpose in our pain – that broken things can have no value.
The Creator of all that was right and good (before it was corrupted by sin) says that the worst thing that has happened to you He will use for good. . . . if you let Him. Romans 8:28 assures us of God’s use of our broken places – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Our journey is our own but the human experience is universal, which is why the next time you encounter someone, you can rest assured they are filled with broken places, too, and the good that God brought into existence from the pain you’ve suffered just might be the grace and understanding heart you have for your fellow traveller.
There’s more room in a broken heart and sometimes God has to break our hearts to make room for others.
Brokenness hurts, sending shards of pain throughout our life. Who could want that? Brokenness exacts a high cost but it can also be of great worth in God’s hands. The value of our own brokenness is seen in God’s use of it in the lives of others.
Life has forced you to pay a heavy price but will you receive the value of your brokenness? Will you receive what God has in store for the worst things that have happened to you, allowing Him to bring peace to your heart and good to the lives of others from all the pain, shame, ugliness, and heartache?
. . . . Casting all your care upon Him; for he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
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His name wasn’t “Johnny” – that’s just a place-holder to protect the guilty – and, his name wasn’t “Nero”, but it fits because the little dictator with the pouty lips pretty much ruled wherever he was. Tyrants come in all shapes and sizes but some of the cutest tyrants in the world are two feet tall. What are their parents thinking?
About ten years ago, we sat in the living room, attempting to get to know a new couple, which was difficult because of whom they brought with them – their three year old. So, there we were, competing for airtime with little “Johnny”.
Johnny, don’t touch the vase . . . said the first and tenth time Johnny touched the vase.
Johnny, come over here . . . Johnny never came.
Johnny, don’t grab cookies off the plate . . . Johnny grabbed and ate the cookies off the plate.
Johnny, eat your dinner . . . Johnny didn’t eat his dinner.
Johnny, don’t throw your food on the floor . . . Johnny smiled as handfuls of food hit the floor.
Johnny, don’t whine . . . Johnny whined all night.
There’s much more but, I think you get the picture.
He was cute, no question, cute as a bug’s ear, Grandma would have said. But he walked through the room and looked around with a certain rat-like cunning, always calculating what he could get away with.
The real tragedy of these little tin-pot tyrants terrorizing Christian homes across the nation is that they are made. They are not born. A tyrant rises to power because the people (that’s you, Dad & Mom) tolerate his behavior. Maybe your little son or daughter isn’t yet in all-time, full-blown defiance of your parenthood but, as you consider your own home, are you headed that direction?
The teen years are just around the corner and they aren’t known for altering bad behavior but for accentuating the character that is already there.
Does your home need a revolution to overthrow a dictator in the making? No child is all bad or all good but if the phrase, ‘selfish, spoiled, little brat’ comes to mind as your hosts smile and say “Good Night”, it’s time for a change – not because the dinner invitations will begin to dwindle (guaranteed, they will), not because both you and your child are in for a miserable ride (and you are . . . or maybe are there, already) but, primarily, because of what God, in His Word, has said.
Train up a child in the way he should go . . . Proverbs 22:6
When we encounter a toddler going his own way, it’s important to remember, it’s not the fault of the child. Every child has at least two powerful influences in his behavior: 1) a Sin Nature and 2) the Character he/she was trained to have.
Dad and Mom, you own the character of your young child.
What are you tolerating from your toddler? We call it ‘behavior’ but it has another name: Sin. Defying a parent to his face isn’t just a result of being tired, bored, insecure, hungry, “off”, or whatever adjective we use to smooth over how our child happens to be embarrassing us in the moment. It’s sin. Rebellion against parental authority, oversight, and training is sin.
In the moment, the single incident may not seem all that important. We just need to get through this. But, moments are strung together, day-by-day, building character in our kids. And, when it comes to parenting and training, every moment matters.
A close friend of mine recently said, “Sometimes I lay in bed after a long day and think, ‘I’m ruining my kid.’”
He wasn’t, but at times, even though rewarding, parenting is a hard, exhausting road. Just like the guy who decides to get into shape, whose body is screaming at 5:30 am – Don’t do it! . . . Don’t get up and go to the gym! – good parenting requires perseverance.
It’s 7pm now and you don’t feel like closing the computer (or the book you’re reading, or leaving your favorite TV show, or stopping working on that report from the office, etc.,) to get up and follow through on what you just told “Johnny” to do.
But, you must. There is no progress in parenting without perseverance. Tolerating bad behavior is the same as training defiance and rebellion into your child’s heart.
The real reason good parenting is difficult is because of someone who doesn’t want to die. In this, parents are just like everyone else. No one naturally wants to die to his/her flesh.
But, you must. When it comes to parenting, there are two people being trained. The parent is training the child (for good or bad) and God is training the parent (always for good). There are few experiences in life where there are more opportunities to “Take up your cross daily, and follow me” as Jesus commanded, than parenting. To be good parents, we have to put our flesh on that cross, every day.
God loves us and because of that, He won’t tolerate defiance and rebellion in His children and He calls parents everywhere not to tolerate them in their toddlers.
The next time we’re tempted to choose comfort or convenience (our flesh) over dealing with a defiant moment in our child’s heart, let’s remember God’s perspective on the matter, “Rebellion is as (is like) the sin of witchcraft.” 1 Samuel 15:23
Boom! That’s a strong statement. Serious business. But, then, we’re shaping a life and guiding a heart and that is serious, indeed. And, it doesn’t happen in a moment of focus and clarity. It happens over time. That is why we’re told to,
Train up a child in the way he should go and, in the end he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
What are we tolerating from our toddler . . . or older child? We’re always training. Let’s persevere in training them in the way they should go.
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We’re told in the Word to raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4. How was I doing with that responsibility . . . the responsibility captured in the word, nurture? The experience our young children have with us is the basis of their first understanding of what God is like. I came face to face with that sober reality when our daughter, Savoury, was eight years of age.
It was Sunday morning as the van turned down the road on the familiar trek to Church. Except, this morning, we wouldn’t be making the right hand turn leading there. We weren’t taking a different route. We wouldn’t be late. In fact, we weren’t going at all. We were going to the lake.
From the rearview mirror, I could see the concern oozing out of her heart and covering her brow with clouds. Her worry formed itself into a halting question, “Daddy . . . do you think God is okay with us not going to Church today? Does that make Him mad?” Imagining how God would take the decision, Savoury’s concerned eyes stared out into the trees passing by the side window. She was just sure God was angry about going to the lake instead of going to Church.
That sounds like God, doesn’t it? Angry at parents with little kids so exhausted from a season of intense medical trauma that the Dad opts for a once-in-a-blue-moon Sunday spent at the lake?
After all, isn’t God angry and disapproving most of the time?
I assured my little girl that God thought spending Sunday at the lake was a very good idea but it was well into the trip before her furrowed brow relaxed. Her little heart wouldn’t have put it in these words but what she was wrestling with was the question many of us have as children and pack like an overstuffed suitcase into adulthood: Does God approve of me? Does God even like me?
If our children have a sense of God’s general disapproval, the mirror is the best place for Dad and Mom to look for the reasons why. A sense of guilt for missing one Sunday in a zillion, really? Some serious soul-searching was in order for me. What had I done? How had I parented her to cause worry that God doesn’t approve of us if we deviate even a little from the beaten path?
How many parents feel they have done enough to ensure their children grow up with the sense that God truly loves and approves of them? That He thinks they’re just great? We’re often pretty good on the “admonition” side but what about the “nurture” side of our responsibility? Clearly, as a young dad, I hadn’t done enough.
Dad & Mom, our children need to know, need to feel, our strong approval of who they are when they are young because in large measure, a child’s first perception and understanding of God’s view of them is a reflection of their relationship with us.
Through our parenting, do we communicate the message that our children are loved and approved of only when their behavior conforms to a given standard or do we communicate what every Christian young child needs to know?
God’s default position toward His children is that, like all good fathers, He truly loves them, approves of them . . . and from time to time, wants them to spend Sunday at the lake.
If you’re looking for help with messages of approval, encouragement, and value to speak to the heart of your children, check out this list of 101 Affirmations Every Child Wants to Hear from Dad and mom.
This week, what will your children “know” about what God thinks of them based on your parenting?
It’s something to consider deeply.
No parent is okay with disrespect coming from their child . . . at least in words. Practice . . . reality . . . that’s another matter. In fact, what many parents of young kids say about their children defying them and how they parent resembles the distance between stars.
Why the disconnect? Why do parents who know it is wrong for their children to disrespect them allow Lil Miss Attitude to stick out her jaw, put her hands on her hips, and say, “No!” in direct opposition to what she was just told? How about the child who repeatedly strikes out at Mommy with a defiant, angry spirit? Why do parents allow behavior in their kids they know is wrong?
It’s usually one of three reasons.
Some parents think defiant behavior in their young kids is cute. But it isn’t cute. It’s a window into the future – your future – and what is cute at 2 is dreadful at 16. You may have the will and power to control your defiant child today when it really matters to you but that time will soon pass. At some point, your child will realize that you no longer have the power to control. The early childhood years go by like a comet in the night sky. What then? You’re not raising a young child. You’re training an adult and the character you instill in a young child is the foundation for the life he will lead. Defiant kids become willful adults. It isn’t cute.
Some parents are tired or Lazy. Being an “on point” parent is time consuming and exhausting. At times, it’s just plain hard. Your right in the middle of something and a simple request – Johnny, come here – turns into a battle. Sometimes we don’t want to bother. We’re busy. We’re in the middle of something important. I’ll let it pass, this time, we tell ourselves, but this time has a way of becoming every time.
Sometimes parents are Ignorant and feel powerless. They know the situation is wrong but don’t know what to do, especially if it happens in public.
Disrespecting Mommy will not dissipate on its own. Defiance must be trained and disciplined from the heart of a child. How do we do that?
- Tell yourself the truth about what you are doing. Parenting is discipleship. Jesus trained his disciples and you are training yours. When we have clarity on what we are doing, the importance of it compels us to action.
- Stop accepting the unacceptable. The Bible says that, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” 1 Samuel 15:23. We don’t have to understand all the implications of this statement to know defiance in a child is very bad and is never acceptable.
- Address disrespect every time it appears, whether it’s convenient or not. Tell yourself, ‘I will never again let my child’s disrespect go unchecked.’
- Let love motivate your discipline. Discipline that is done without love is sinful. We are admonished to “Speak the truth in love”. Ephesians 4:15. Love is the critical factor in biblical discipline. Without it, hearts will become hard.
- Examine your own heart and parenting to ensure you don’t do things that exasperate your child and drive him/her to defiance. To address the issue of disrespect in your child when you are the cause of that behavior makes you a hypocrite and kids don’t need any more of those!
- Seek God’s favor by taking your challenge to Him in prayer. Sometimes we attempt to do the most important things in our own strength. Ask God to do His work in your own heart and life so you can grow into the loving, faithful, wise, discerning parent He wants you to be.
God bless you as you seek to honor Him in the high calling of parenting.
Show up with your personal standards and you are automatically deemed to be judging others who don’t share your conviction. And when you say, “I’m not judging others, this is my personal conviction,” you are automatically deemed to be judging others who don’t share your conviction.
Why? Because there is one value you can’t challenge in a society that has systematically removed God from the public square: No one has the right to oppose any opinion I may hold and any hint that you suggest otherwise threatens my truth.
It’s as if the 21st Century has turned everyone into Napoleon Dynamite.
“What are you going to do today, Napoleon?”
“Whatever I want! GOSH!”
There is a degree of logic, here. Without a moral law or restraint outside of myself, I can do whatever I want as long as you don’t have the power and will to stop me. Take God out of the picture and all bets are off.
And so it is with the body parts men and women put on public display by how they dress.
If someone wants to get his/her tee shirt and jeans from a can of paint and spray it on to maximize focus on physical attributes, whose business is that?
Follow the logic and it’s pretty easy to make an argument for no clothes, at all.
No, it isn’t.
If the basis of the position is, ‘I can dress how I want. I dress like this because it makes me feel good/sexy/comfortable/”hot”‘ who’s to say where the line is to be drawn? Which raises an interesting question: If Lady Godiva came riding naked into town on her horse, is she the one with the problem or is it all the men who won’t stop looking when a strong gust of wind blows her hair behind her back?
Men or women wearing skin-tight clothing? . . . no big deal, but you probably shouldn’t be naked in public, should you? There are still laws that prevent total nudity in public but it gets confusing if God’s not involved.
But God is involved.
He said in the Bible to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9). And everyone of us will give an account, one day, when we stand before Him, of how we dressed AND how we looked lustfully at others.
From God’s perspective, the responsibility for all aspects of this issue runs both directions.
Those who wish to argue walking down the street in your underwear is no big deal and it’s okay if Victoria doesn’t have any Secrets, plastering pictures of women in sexy bras all over their windows, will have to take it up with God. You’re argument about the particulars is with Him and you’ll definitely get your chance. (Hebrews 9:27)
A moment ago, it was said that God is involved but, He’s not the only one. Someone else is involved, too: My 12 year-old son.
A couple of months ago he came to me, distraught that from seemingly nowhere, he was suddenly struck with a deep sense of awareness and interest in girls . . . and not just girls, generally, but very (very) specifically, right down to the curves . . . all of them.
I listened as he poured out his heart in confusion, embarrassment, and anguish. Then, I immediately hugged him and told him how great it all was.
“Son, your awakened interest in girls is completely normal, natural, and good. God made you this way. You’re in the process of becoming a man and I think that’s awesome!”
Now, about those “particulars”, and the argument that it’s all on the guy, or on the girl, as the case may be, I ask a simple question: Should young boys coming of age in our society bear all the responsibility for the moral struggles they face?
Does any degree of responsibility lay elsewhere?
My son and I are having some deep conversations about lust, the enemy’s counterfeit of God’s best, the responsibility to exercise self-control, and averting our eyes at appropriate times. He is being taught his responsibility to walk uprightly. I’m teaching him how to do battle in a world that doesn’t care about purity, modesty, and self control. If I’m successful and any woman has an encounter with him, she will be respected and treated with dignity.
But I’m hoping that you, too, care about the impact you may be having on my young son . . . on all the young sons . . . who are becoming sexually aware young men. If you’ve not thought about modesty and how the way you dress affects a young boy coming of age, would you be willing to consider these things?
We live in community. I’m striving to do my part as his dad. Will you consider the positive part you can play when you get dressed in the morning? We may never know each other, personally, but that doesn’t mean my son won’t encounter you at the store, airport, or State Fair. Just because you don’t know him personally doesn’t mean you’re not having a major impact on a young boy somewhere.
No one is advocating burqas before breakfast but don’t buy into the spirit of the age that says however sexy you dress makes no difference because, friend, I can tell you, it matters a great deal to my 12 year-old son who is becoming a man and desires to be a loving, faithful, husband and father some day.
‘Thank you” to all the thoughtful women out there, for thinking of others and, in essence, for thinking of my son.