Character Comment – Our Stories, Part 4

Our Stories – Part 4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise (Eph. 6:2-3a)

Children must be taught to obey. But notice how the 5th commandment has a reason attached, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.  Young parents get so excited when they first hear their child say, “Ma,” or “Da da.”  But soon the smiles turn to frowns as the first defiant “no” is uttered. Then come the seemingly endless “why’s” that reveal innate curiosity, or sometimes the delay tactic which precedes obedience. In fact, we are all programmed to want to know why, and therein reside many missed teaching opportunities.

We shouldn’t reason with little Billy or Susie at the expense of instilling respect for authority through parental discipline. But answering those “why’s” in a thoughtful manner can be a valuable way to train our children in habits of the heart, as they grow toward mature relationships and joyful responsibility. Paul said (paraphrase), “Fathers, do not frustrate your children, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

In my relationship with my son, a serious problem became a valuable opportunity to open the pages of my own story that he might see the bitter consequences that his behavior could lead to for himself. He had a chance to wrap his mind and heart around the scars that his father prayed he would avoid. As with King David and faithful Nathan, sin would lead to discipline, but an appropriate narrative would touch the heart of the issue.

That incident with my son, that story, established our relationship in a new way, creating a better understanding and openness to other admonitions later on. In fact, my son often jokes about the stories I told him when he was young; but now he mimics that teaching style with his own sons and in his career in radio broadcasting. To close this comment, let me use yet another insight from Mark Hamby.

A Soft Answer (by Mark Hamby)

When our children have committed an offense, how do we respond? The natural tendency of our flesh is to protect ourselves and our image, allowing anger to escalate and tempers to flare in order to avoid the real heart issues. In self-preservation we insist on having the last word rather than seeking to understand. Too often self-love hinders our ability to reach the hearts of our children. But God’s Word tells us that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

We must break down the barriers that squelch communication, and once again bring about an environment in which we can look beyond the offense and into the heart. No matter how wrong they may be, we are now controlled by the Spirit of God—not by our own selfish heart—and are in a position to provide guidance.

When the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his sin, he didn’t become irate. Rather, he approached David with a story and concluded with the simple statement: “You are the man.” A simple story and a simple statement were all it took to break the heart of the king. Just as Nathan used wisdom when dealing with David, we too can help our children through words that convey wisdom and truth.

“[Solomon] sought to find acceptable words…The words of the wise are like goads, … like well-driven nails… Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all…” (Ecc. 12:9-13).

 


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Character Comment – Our Stories, Part 3

Our Stories – Part 3

“Hey, Mr. LoGiudice, we found gold… gold discovered at Covenant Christian Academy!”

I heard that one day from an excited young lad who held up his hands after digging in the dirt to give evidence of his discovery. Digging in the playground or backyard, what boy or girl (mostly boys) hasn’t seen shiny gold sparkles on their hand and thought, “Eureka! I’ve found gold!” Of course, we sober adults dash their hopes with the reality that it is only worthless pyrite, fools’ gold. Eventually our lack of enthusiasm dampens theirs.

Several times in these Character Matters comments I have referenced Mark Hamby (editor of Lamplighter Publications), sometimes quoting him at length. I say a hearty “yes” to many of his observations. He often mentions the tendency toward Responsibility above Relationship and the need to put Relationship above Responsibility instead. This is not to discount the importance of responsibility, but there is a difference between fulfilling an obligation through mere compliance rather than through a relationship of love and respect.

I find it fascinating to watch children grow and mature. I have known many young people who once tested the patience of parents, teachers, and pastors—but who have matured, many starting their own families, turning the pages of their own stories as godly examples; now they are blessings to those who loved them through difficult and nurturing times. They have gone from Responsibility above Relationship to Relationship above Responsibility. Yet even that second motivator has become Joyful Responsibility. They have learned the joy of a fruitful life as opposed to the self-centered, fruitless one (Matt 21: 18-20). Their relationships lead to the fulfillment of responsibilities with joyful hearts.

Sinfulness is sometimes described as waste, whether it’s wasteful behavior or waste of time. I often remarked to my errant son, “What a waste!” as I saw him repeat the sins of my youth. Think about a wasted life given over to sin and vice, or wasted time spent recovering from sin’s ill effects, the “wasted” effort in relationships and reputations. Looking back, oh how we would like to have those “wasted moments” back that we might “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise in redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16-17). How often have we heard the lament, “if only I knew then, what I know now?” As Character Advocates, that is the whole point of telling our stories, sharing the lessons we learned so that our charges will not repeat the mistakes of our youth. All that glitters is NOT gold, as much as we want to believe that it is.

This is the story that Solomon tells in Ecclesiastes. He displays for all to see his lamentable and sinful pursuits of “fools’ gold,” describing his follies and failures. In the end, he has become a wise man who fear[s] the LORD; [willing to swear] to his own hurt (Ps. 15:4) to save others from the same waste.

“Hey, Mr. LoGiudice, we found gold!” …Well, no, I hate to tell you, but it is not gold; let me tell you why.

…to be continued.


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