The Discipline of Pain in Parenting

Playing with DaddyReprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. First posted at SharperIron Nov. 26, 2008.

My foibles as a father are numerous and varied. My intuitive responses to the rapid-fire ordeal of parental decision-making routinely unveil my native blockheadedness.

With this disclaimer firmly staked, I nonetheless testify to the remarkable benefit I gain from imitating my heavenly Father’s example as He nurtures His children. I am discovering that such imitation provides not only wisdom for parenting, but also becomes itself a means by which to better understand my Father.

For instance, by following God as parental exemplar, I am learning that skillful parenting occasionally commends the discipline of choosing our children’s pain over their pleasure. Living in an affluent, fun-at-any-cost culture, our default modus operandi as parents is to remove every pain as quickly as possible, or at least to reduce it as far as is feasible. But I find that God’s parental instincts flow much deeper and commend to us the capacity of permitting our children to suffer for their good (2 Cor. 1:3-9; 12:1-10; Heb. 12:4-13).

To illustrate, I once picked up my eight-year-old son from school over the lunch hour for a special father-son excursion to a local sporting goods store. I purchased a junior size basketball for him, and we dribbled and bounce-passed the new ball on the sidewalk in front of the store for several minutes (just to make sure it worked, of course) before I took him back to school. From that day forward, my son and that ball were virtually inseparable partners.

989 reads

Come into My Heart, Lord Jesus? A Plea for Biblical Accuracy in Child Evangelism

First published at SI May 1, 2006.

Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today; come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Harry Clarke, Welsh song leader for Evangelist Billy Sunday, wrote these words in 1924. Who hasn’t heard these words sung at the end of an evangelistic challenge? I’m still amazed that many Christians still sing the lyrics after they already know the Lord.

The language of “asking Jesus into one’s heart” is part of a soul winner’s basic vocabulary, at least in my experience. It is firmly entrenched, it seems, especially in children’s ministries today. Consider this recommended prayer for children given by one church:

Dear God, Thank you for making a way for us to turn from the wrong things that we have done. I know I have done wrong things, but right now I want to look upon Jesus so that you will forgive me for the things I have done. Please let Jesus come into my heart, to live forever there. I want to live forever with God. Thank you for loving me. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen

Now, to be fair, this prayer does deal with forgiveness of sin. It acknowledges the love of God. But what it fails to do is to lead a child to verbalize trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Isn’t that what the Gospel is all about?

12390 reads

Your Reactions are Showing

My Dad used to always order his eggs “over easy”—a little fragile, potentially gooey, requiring extra care to keep them intact. I think we can have days like this, too…ones when we need to be handled a little more gently or things might get messy. These “Over Easy” posts are for those days when you might need something on the lighter, “sunny side” of things. —Diane

We have a very observant two-year-old. She has verbal skills exceeding that of her brother and sister at her age. We have had some very close fellowship these past few days, as the other children have been at camp (for an excruciating two weeks, but that’s another post) and my husband is returning from his cross-country excursion (ditto). I am able to focus more attention on Kate, and I am seeing the impression that we have all made on her, good and not-so.

The other day I was singing in the car as we drove into town. Kate kept demanding, “Mommy, stop!” Now, it shouldn’t ruffle my feathers that my little sweetheart feels the need to critique my vocalization. At the risk of sounding narcissistic, folks actually request for me to sing at church sometimes. And they don’t even bring compost to throw. But repeated requests to “put a lid on it” from a toddler, well… I finally gave in and stopped. Whatever joy I was receiving from making my joyful noise was being drowned out by the peanut gallery. A few seconds later I heard her chirp, in a sing-songy voice, “Good girl!” I had stopped. It was the behavior she desired. She was commending me! Because it made me laugh, she now uses the phrase several times a day, but always appropriately. When she gets a little older we’ll talk about Who makes her a “good girl”—not her obedience to commands, not even her most sterling behavior, but a Person.

699 reads

Should We Encourage Children To Be Involved in Sports? Part 2

Read Part 1.

In a previous essay, I delineated a number of the physical and spiritual benefits that may accrue to children who find healthy involvement in athletics. Young bodies need exercise and young souls can profit from the invaluable lessons athletic involvement provides through competitive interaction with other sinners.

I further stressed in the aforementioned article that parental decision making with respect to a child’s involvement in sports constitutes a crucible in which parents’ moral skill and loyalty to Christ are tested. If we do not proceed in the conscious fear of God when making such decisions, we stumble along life’s path as idolaters. So in the interest of athletic involvement that consciously strives to glorify God, I offer the following considerations for parents.

1397 reads

Should We Encourage Children To Be Involved in Sports? Part 1

Most parents living in the Western hemisphere must eventually address the matter of their children’s involvement in athletics. This may seem a moot point for children who rank joining an athletic team only slightly higher than a visit to the orthodontist. Other parents are driven nearly insane by their children’s obsession with sports. But what seems to escape many parents is the reality that a child’s involvement in athletics is a weighty spiritual matter that demands skillful parental leadership.

Parents—and most particularly dads—need to actively steer their children’s involvement (or non-involvement) in athletics in such a way as to purposefully magnify the splendor of God. Parents who merely respond to what their children want to do (or not do) athletically are guilty of spiritual negligence. A child’s participation in sports constitutes a crucible in which a parent’s moral skill and loyalty to God are put to the test. We must proceed in the conscious fear of God or we will proceed as idolaters. As always, there is much at stake.

In an essay to follow, I address guidelines by which athletic participation may redound to the glory of God. In this article, I address only secondarily parents who enthusiastically support their children’s athletic interests. I speak more directly here to parents minded that athletics are a waste of precious resources and generally to be avoided. I address those who think the spiritual temptations and/or physical risks inherent in athletics render such involvement unjustifiable. I also address parents who simply respond to their children’s desires without consciously appreciating and strategically tapping the benefits of athletic involvement. To such readers I offer the following apologetic for children’s athletics.

3221 reads