I don’t even know where to begin. My head, my heart, my soul are exploding with this! And I really, really want to write in a way that makes sense. I need one of you amazing bloggers to write this for me. Out of my heart. 🙂
But since that’s not an option, I’m going to do my best.
If you’re not careful, it might change your life.
And then, it’ll go ahead and change the lives, hearts, and futures of your kids.
Really, it’s not the book that does it. We know…it’s Father God.
This book, which I have just finished and am going to turn around and read again, along with a book Craig is reading on how to read the Bible, (much more than that, but hey–you need to talk to him if you want to know more), are coming together to rock my world. Our world.
Yay! Rocking our world is such a good thing!!
It all begins with how you read the Bible. And live and believe it.
In the Old Testament, (thus, the old covenant/way God worked with His children) God –for reasons I do and reasons I don’t understand– related with us in a very controlled manner. He gave laws: dos and don’ts. If a person broke those laws, there were clear consequences. If you kill someone, you will be killed. You disobey God’s command, you are stoned. Etc.
We all agree that we are now living in a new covenant; a new way of relating with God and our own salvation. We know that this is in the New Testament. What we don’t know is that in many ways, we are still operating in the old way. What we don’t know is that many times, we still believe God is working with us in the old manner!
Let me give you a few examples from my life.
In my head, I have been changing a lot. I know in my head that God is not an angry person up there with a big stick ready to whack me when I do wrong. But why, then, if I get sick, or my tire goes flat, or we lose some money, do I start checking my life to see what I have done wrong to deserve this?
Closer, far closer to home for many of us: why do I believe that others have control over me? Why do I allow others to manipulate me with disapproval, withholding love, tiny remarks, etc.?
Because the truth is this:
God is not controlling me.
No one else needs to control me.
I am the only one who needs to control me. And the reason I can do this is because the Holy Spirit fills me, and a direct result of that is self control.
Really, for this to fully make sense, you may need to read the book. It sounds almost weird. Especially depending on how you grew up and what worldviews and doctrines became a part of you as you grew.
But this truth is breaking off weights. It’s breaking tight bonds. It’s breaking people free!
God does not control man. He gives free choice. He gave free choice from the beginning, and He still does it today.
God is not “I’m bigger than you, so you need to listen to me or I will spank you and hurt you until you do.”
God does not hold us down while we have a temper tantrum…until we relax and give up.
I’m going to go so far as to say that to God, obedience and compliance is not the most important thing.
Relationship is. Connection with our hearts. Because He, in His infinite wisdom, knows that when that connection and relationship is there, stronger than life itself, that of course we will obey. We will jump with deep joy to comply with His ideas, His suggestions, His goals for us.
So why not us ~ for our kids?
Can I take this enormous paradigm shift–that happened between the Old and New Testaments, and change my own parenting? My own “training of my kids”? My own…heart?
That’s my answer. And in writing this, I am not going to attempt to convince anyone of anything. So argue all you want. I’m not convincing those of you who don’t want this. I’m writing this because someone somewhere was faithful in bringing this to my attention, and it is turning out to be a direct answer to my heart crying out to God for wisdom and help, as I realized that the way I am bringing up my kids — it’s not working.
And there may be one other lovely friend out there, who is praying the same prayer.
I have a seven year old. This simply means that I have been parenting for seven years. In reality, I sort of parented long before that. I was an elementary school teacher, a Sunday school teacher, a Bible school teacher, a Kenyan boys class teacher, and now and then, a babysitter.
I was a no-nonsense sort. I believed that in loving my kids, but making them toe the line, and allowing no bad behavior, I would turn out good kids. Kids who would be a blessing to society and to the Kingdom of God. This was how I taught my hundreds of kids before I was married and had my own. And they adored me. I’m not kidding. That was one reason I was sure this would work with my own kids someday. They also listened. They respected me. I was 27 years old, and quite sure I would make a great mom.
(Insert long, sobbing laugh here…)
Ten years later, here I am. I have five young kids. And I have no idea what I am doing.
Which is actually so good. Because then God can change me. He can bring me truth. And He can bring my kids to a good place.
My three oldest kids are pretty nice in general. They are polite. They are kind to other kids. They love God very much.
Then I had Enzo. And nothing worked with him. We realized that he needs respect. He needs a different hand. What I didn’t know was that all my kids were suffering. I’m not hiding under my bed crying. I can’t change the past. We all hurt our kids. It’s life. But I am jumping up and down! Because there are answers! Yay!
Let me give you a very vivid, true picture of our home.
Bomani is seven. Daisy and Hazel are six. While they play together all the time, they also fight. Constantly. Bomani loves to tease. The twins go crazy. They are passionately loyal to each other. They will also scream their hearts out at each other. Then throw Enzo into the mix. He has a very loud voice. He has a stronger temperament than I knew possible at this age. He can get the older kids to listen to him. But it doesn’t always work very smoothly.
Then there is me. Mom. I am going to say this with much hiding of my face. I am a helicopter mom. I see everything. In the nursery at Co-op, I am the one walking around keeping the kids from hurting each other. Because I am 100% aware. I can see an accident about to happen behind my head.
So when my kids are fighting, I know what’s going to happen. One of them will get hurt. It won’t be a nasty bruise or a cut, but it will be a hurt. So I step in. I yell around and get them to listen to me. It’s for their own good! It’s because I love them! But it’s exhausting. And it makes me mad. And I can’t be there every time. I threaten with a punishment. So they’ll listen, right?
But that’s not how my Father fathers me. He gives me 100% choice. He sets me free! I choose, every minute, what I will do. He makes relationship and connection with my heart priority. He sticks around to give suggestions and counsel. (Holy Spirit!) He does not bring punishment down on me when I do wrong. He allows me to get into a mess. Then He allows me to clean up my mess. And I learn. I grow. I passionately follow Him. Because I love Him.
Listen to this:
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel–not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt…
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel,” says the Lord:
I will put My law in their minds,
and write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God,
and they shall be My people.
Relationship. No longer leading us by the hand. Instead, He will place His heart into our heart. He sets us free. We no longer need to be controlled by the outside, because we are able to control ourselves from the inside. We have the Holy Spirit in us!
Love and freedom need to replace punishment and fear as the motivating forces in our relationships with our children. There is love, honor, and value for each other.
I still have enormously long ways to go. But I am so excited about the changes we are already seeing in our home. Practically speaking, I am training myself to allow my kids to fight. Because then they will realize that this is not working! They will get hurt. And they will have messes to clean up. (Not talking about the physical messy room…) This is much, much harder than you can imagine. A heli-mom allowing her kids to get hurt?!!! Allowing them to fight?!!! Yes. No longer heli-mom. Now I’m learning to be like my Father in heaven. I am here with suggestions. I am here to keep them from getting killed. I am here to create a strong connection of love and loyalty. And I am here…
To set them free.
A really big tool is choices. Because you do still need to get your kids to do what you want them to, many times. When it’s time to clean up their bedroom, I say, “Would you like to clean it on your own, or shall I set a timer?” They say, “We want to do it without a timer!!” And they hop to it. I empowered them. I gave them choice. I did not say, “Clean your room or I will give you each two whacks.”
(P.S. The book is not anti-spanking. But if you really think about it, all whipping of your child is spoken of in the Old Testament.)
Enzo is especially thriving with this. When it’s time for him to use the bathroom, I say, “Enzo, please go pee!” And then I remember and quickly add, “Do you want to do it yourself or shall I come with you?” Many times he hops up and happily goes himself.
Okay, this is hilarious. The other day I gave him two choices about something. He groaned and said, “Awww, two choices!” I laughed so hard. He is realizing that the “two choices” thing is cramping his style which is to do exactly as he wishes. 🙂
Every now and then I totally lose patience and speak sternly at the kids and give them an ultimatum. It feels so good at the time, then so not good. Because the results are not good.
And so we learn. And change. The change is not only in my children, it’s also a freeing in my own soul. I am the only one to control me. I don’t need to bow to the control of others. That is freedom!
And then I also have no need to control anyone, even the behavior of my own kids.
God has set us free, and so who are we to crawl back into bondage?
Ah. The excitement of knowing I do not need to cringe at the thought of having teenagers. This may sound weird, but the other day at Co-op I was watching my girls playing, and I just was overcome with a deep, deep happiness as I realized that I am free to only love them. I no longer need to fear bad behavior and treat it hard. I can’t describe the exact realization but it was incredible.
Free to love. Free to set them free.
Okay, I’ll shut up and let you read the book yourself. 🙂