As many of you know, I am a lover of classical art. When I found this picture, I thought it aptly pictured the journey of my own family. Clay and I were in the boat, seeking faithfully to guide our children to a healthy life of righteousness, in the midst of constant storms and challenges that seemed to plague us every step of the way. I know so many of you are waiting for me to get to specifics, which I will do very soon.
But foundations are so important. We have talked about your view of God, addressed the policing attitude of child discipline. One more thing before we move to specifics.
The source of grace, wisdom, beauty, health, goodness in our family amidst the storms--the way we made it through--was totally the Lord Jesus, God our Father, scripture and walking with Him in faith. The secret is Him. What are the hindrances to walking by faith?
When we walk by fear, we say, "Oh, no. I am not a good enough parent. What if my children give into cultural storms? What if we do not have enough money to make it? I can't do this. It is too much for me. I am not adequate." We tend to look at the storm around us and find it too threatening and become discouraged. The spies in Canon looked at their "giants" with fear and became as grasshoppers in their own sight. The thousands of soldiers looks at Goliath and failed to trust God. When Simon looked at the face of Jesus, he could walk on the water, but in the storm stories, when the disciples looked at the wind and waves, they felt panic and lived in total fear. Hundreds of times in scripture tells us to "Fear not." If you are living in fear, the life of God will be squeezed out. We cannot live by fear in parenting or we will fail to show our children the reality of God
The Pharisees wanted laws to depend on, rules, works. A parent who is dependent on Formula says, "If I spank this way, or follow these rules, or use this curriculum or find the right formula, then I will find the secret to raising a perfect child." This kind of parenting depends on works. It puts children into one box and treats them all the same. This reliance on works is dependent on "getting it right," doing it right, being perfect to attend to the law. This type of parenting can also be a little fear based--rock music, dress, bad influences, tv, movies, people--life--will tempt my kids, so if I prohibit all of these things, and follow my rules exactly and hold fast to my legalism, then my kids will be safe.
Of course, being wise about some of these influences is important. But our children have been born into a dark world. We cannot keep them from all that might harm them out there by using control, rules, laws and formulas. God is still God even in this time in history. Formulas will disappoint. Formulas do not regard the heart as one of the most important factors. Following law will never equal the redeeming power of God and no matter how you search, you will not find the right formula--If God had wanted us to follow a formula, He would have made it easy and spelled a formula out.
We tend to depend on ourselves and put lots of effort into forcing our world to be more controlled. If I just get up earlier, if I just have more quiet times, if I just control my kids more, if I can expose them to the best curriculum, get the right experiences, make all organic stuff, be more perfect, be a good mom, teach them manners, get the right training, provide the best friends, then I will have better children. The flesh depends on the advice and input of man--media--experts--working harder, putting more effort into it.
Now of course, again, parenting is hard work. But when we try to help God by exerting great amounts of energy--helping him, depending on our own abilities--"I am naturally a great person and I can come up with what my child needs," then eventually, we will come up against our own limitations and want to throw our hands up into the air and give up. "I can't do this. I am exhausted. I am failing. You have asked me to do more than I can possibly do.
Since we know that God's will is good and acceptable and perfect, then we know He has not asked us to do more than we are able to do. And so some of the requirements we area placing on ourselves are from fear of people, or rules of others that put pressure on us or trying to win the hearts of our children by exerting our wills.
God brought me to the end of myself--3 out of 4 clinically asthmatic kids; 3 ocd kids, one adhd; 17 moves, church splits, fire in our home, car accidents, etc. There is no way I could do it all or be perfect.
But, God wanted me to walk by faith in Him. Every day I learned to give to Him my fish and loaves. Lord, I know I am not perfect, I cannot provide all my children need. But I am giving you my best, my heart---here are my fish and loaves. You make it enough. No child is the same. No family puzzles are the same. God, our devoted and ever-present Father, wants us to come to Him, to ask Him to work, to ask His grace to fill our homes, to ask Him who has access to the brains of our children, for Him to draw them to himself.
And so, miracles happen where God is the one we depend on to work. We acknowledge we are not adequate, but He is. We release our problems and sadnesses, and limitations and fears into His hands and leave them there, and then move to an attitude of worship---can't wait to see what you do, Lord, sort of attitude of faith. We do what He leads us to do and live within our own limitations every day. Whatever we do not get done, we put it back into His file and have a go again tomorrow. He is the source of supernatural life, and He wants us to walk this parenting path by faith as we would walk all of the other paths of our life by faith. It is no different in parenting.
One of my friends recently said to me, "Sally, it seems like you have a lot of miracles strewn through your life. How do you account for that?" I told her that my life required miracles, for Him to work, or I wouldn't make it. He is the ultimate source and answer and strength, but He is also the way of peace.
My husband, Clay, is a brilliant thinker and writer. He is the one who passed this outline of "F's" on to me and you can read all about it in his wonderful book, Heartfelt Discipline, which we hope to be able to put back into print later this summer. Grace, peace, and faith to you all today.