Last week Blue -eyes was out in the mid-west all week. We have over the years let our children take turns traveling with us when it is at all possible. Our little seven year old son proudly packed up his stuff and set off with Dad. A whole week of talking and thinking together, meeting new people, seeing new places. Attending a funeral of a young man, playing with a boy his own age who’s father’s body lies silent in the grave. Seeing a young widow mourn and his own Daddy crying because life is really tough sometimes. But he knows it’s ok because his little hand is tucked safely in Dad’s when things are sad and at night and sometimes in the day they pray. My son comes home a little older and thoroughly bonded with his Dad.
Some people might doubt the wisdom of bringing your kids into a situation like that but we don’t. Dying is a fact of life. When we raise our children with an eternal perspective and a heart for the Lord these realities of life must be addressed. And sometimes I think my boys who are nine and seven years old are wiser in some ways than many of the full grown men of our time. When ever my husband is out of town we’ve made it a tradition that all the kids are allowed to sleep in our bedroom. Now that I have a strong little son around he happily hauls everyone’s mattresses in and they set up camp. It helps us feel cozier when Dad’s not here to tuck us in.
This time I thought I’d read The Little House in the Big Woods, as we settled down for the night, especially for the little girls, who I thought probably didn’t remember the last time I read it aloud. They loved it, of course.
It got me thinking about modern day children and our expectations of them. One chapter, you may remember, tells the story of how long Sundays felt to Laura and how on Monday Pa had to spank her once for being naughty on the Sabbath. Then Pa tells her and Mary a story about when his dad was a boy. What really amazed me was the level of self control these children were taught to possess.
Now I am not advocating that we should make our children sit quietly and not smile of laugh on the Sabbath but I am thinking that teaching our children a great measure of self control would probably be a very good thing. Again, the children then had much more self control than the adults of our time. More than I have!
I am glad that my husband was wise enough to make the keeping of our Lord’s Day a discipline in our family life. We have always had our children with us during the church service and they sit quietly (we hope!) without books or toys and listen to the sermon. My husband never works on Sunday and we do not normally do our shopping on this day. We also have a few other rules that we have set, we do not turn on the computer, and we read only the Bible or theological books, kids included. We also stick together, visiting friends as a family, rather than doing our own things. Now this is not to be legalistic but rather so that we can enjoy our day of rest, being fully present with one another. We have found that by setting and keeping these general rules of thumb we are able to more freely enjoy the gift of a Sabbath (which is a Hebrew word meaning rest, therefore we feel free to keep Sunday as our Sabbath, rather than the actual seventh day. Read Col. 2:16). I am pretty sure that Sunday is the favorite day in this house hands down!
I think sometimes that we are too quick to frown upon rules and discipline, fearing legalism, but the Bible exhorts us to “mortify the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and that “everyone aught to know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Th 4:4). Recently I had a conversation with a little 5 year old girl around here about why I sadly needed to spank her. I explained to her that neither God nor I wanted to cause her pain or make her sad but that I trusted God in that he says this small momentary discomfort will save her from serious hurt later on by teaching her self discipline. If she doesn’t like the spank then next time she can practice self discipline and mom won’t need to discipline her. I explained to her that when she is a grown up she will need to, through the Spirit, do the things that are right with out anyone making her. We prayed together and asked God to help her not to react in her anger next time. And true to the word (Hebrews 12:11) this chastisement “yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness” for the remainder of that day.
I know as a Mom it is so easy to become lazy and let things slide with my kids. But in the long run it is them who will suffer for it. What a gift to help our children learn self discipline when they are very young so that when they are husbands and fathers, wives and mothers they will be well practiced in choosing the path of righteousness. In this way they will prosper and be happy. It breaks my heart to hear of men, who profess to be Christians, who use pornography and have affairs, or even on a smaller scale, lack the self discipline to read the word to their families on a regular basis or pray with their children. Perhaps these men were not properly taught to practice self control as children. We can see over all in our time a horrendous lack of self control, resulting in many selfish and hurtful decisions and actions. Do not become faint, fellow moms! Let’s ask the Lord to help us raise up men and women who will not obey the lusts of the flesh but rather the will of God!
“Lord, please help us mothers to not become weary in well doing. Help us to be “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” in regards to our precious charges. Help us not to lazily or timidly overlook wrong but to gently and lovingly “raise up our children in the way that they should go”. In Jesus’s name Amen.