I was tired of arguing with one of the kids today, and when it was over and he had finally gone to bed, I wondered again if I did right.
See - I was so tired of arguing. Always an arguement from this particular child. So I told the person just to go to bed. I'm done. I don't want to argue. Go to bed. I had to say it more than a few times. Finally, he went, but only because I'd threatened to ground him.
After everything quieted and I was by myself again, frustrated, I went back to what I had been doing in my office. I resumed my tasks at the computer, but all the while, still thinking about what just happened.
And then I saw a tweet by Randy Alcorn -
"Job stops arguing with God. Job 42:2-6. It is when he surrenders to God that he finds comfort."Ok. I had to look that up. What is Job 42: 1-6?
1 Then Job replied to the LORD :
2 'I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, "Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
4 You said, "Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me."
5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'
This is what struck me immediately...
After years of having to maintain total control while my husband was drinking, I worked at letting go, shushing up, and letting God guide my husband's decisions after we became Christians. During this period of time, I even wore a scarf. - not for legalistic reasons - but to remind myself to back off and be quiet and listen to what my husband had to say.
It was hard! Hard for me to let go of the reins, but also, surprisingly, hard for my husband to pick them up and take control. For a little while there, he actually got mad at me if I wouldn't say what we should do next. So one of the pastors told me to give Roland options, discuss the issue, but then still back off from the final decision. (Kind of a tight rope)
And of course my husband made mistakes. Kind of like a child learning to walk. One of his first major decisions was the phones for our Medicab - and he signed us into a terrible contract. But we all make mistakes. Making the correct decision all the time wasn't the point. The point was for me to rest and let him do it - and trust God, not necessarily him. In other words, if my husband made a mistake, it was okay, because I was trusting God to make things work in the long run.
Anyway, my stepping back and his stepping forward helped us both, and we grew. Neither of us were perfect, but we did get to a point where we were both much better. We were also much more comfortable with things this way. I really did find myself enjoying that certain things were no longer 'my' problem and stepped back with relief that I didn't have to worry about certain issues anymore.
Which is, I think, what I was trying to express to some of kids when they were teenagers; telling them to just tell friends at school that certain decisions were out of their hands. Tell them that their mother was a mean decision maker, and that I would kill them if they tried drugs or alcohol. I had hoped my kids would find comfort in not having to make certain decisions - kind of like I had found comfort in letting someone else be in control. "See," I told them, "the decision has already been made - you aren't allowed to do what they were asking you to do. You can rest in that decision"
Unfortunately, it didn't work. Most of my older kids didn't embrace that teaching. Maybe it was in the delivery.
Anyway, so I've been trying to teach some of the younger kids with an even simpler - maybe gentler - certainly more tired - version of that concept.
"Let me be the boss. Let go. Simply quit arguing and do as I ask. Really. Things are a lot easier that way. For everyone. Yup."In some ways, it's getting through a little better. Perhaps more because the younger can see the troubles older siblings had gotten into and know that if 'such and such' rules had simply been listened to, those sibs wouldn't have gotten into those troubles. At any rate, motivation aside, the younger ones seem to be listening a little better.
Sure, I will make mistakes, too, just as we all do. But in the big picture, it doesn't matter. Does it matter today that my husband, who passed away 6-years ago, put us into a bad contract 17-years ago? No. No one but me even remembers the contract, and it is totally irrelevant to me or to anything happening today.
However, the big picture - that he and I had eventually learned to work together as a cooperating team - matters a great deal. It matters to my heart, and it matters to my kids. The big picture is that he is no longer with us, but our good memories, the lessons we learned together, and our love for him will last forever.
And my older ones, having gone through their grief, are starting to see and understand that, especially now that some of them are raising kids.
So back to that lesson from Job; there's a lot of good for us all to learn in it. It refers to God and our submission to Him, but can also teach us about getting comfort from simply listening to - and obeying - any of our authorities. (as long as the authorities aren't telling you to break God's laws)
In our society, we already know we aren't ever to argue with the police. Or with a judge. These are 'given's that most of us easily accept. And we aren't to argue with or disrespect our military commander, no matter what an idiot he might be, as General McChrystal recently reminded us. Submitting to the concept of obeying those in authority is a real expectation in our society, and most of us rarely question it.
And arguing with our boss isn't always bright. (although I've done it in my youth) (and lost jobs because of it)
Simply dong as our domineering boss asks, even if is stupid, makes life simpler. (as long as everyone knows it was the boss who demanded that it be done in a stupid way.) Most of us understand this about authority.
Except when it comes to parents. In the last 60 years, the expectation that parents be obeyed has been erroded. Strict parents are seen as "controlling," and assumed to be "abusive." This has been brought on by an intrusive school system as well as television and movies, where teens and even pre-teens are lauded for their sass and rebellion. Parents, teachers and school principals are often portrayed as idiots with whom the children must endure. Although I like Will Smith a lot now, I never used to let my kids watch "the Fresh Prince of Bel Air" because the attitude toward those in authority was so nasty. The movie "Home Alone" is another example were parents were shamelessly ridiculed and disregarded. And those are just a couple examples. The televsion and movie industry is full of matrial that disregards parents.
We have learned to disrespect the authority of parents, and I say "we" because I was raised within the last 60 years, as well. I was a teen in the 70's, when disregarding parents (and bosses we thought were stupid) had already become a norm. Sass was an art form - one with which you could get lots of good attention from friends for. (believe me, I got good attention for my sass)
Further, when I began raising my kids, I had no confidence in my own authority. If my older children disagreed with me, I actually believed that I should factor that into my final decision. I confess that I needed to be stronger about making decisions and sticking to them no matter how my kids wheedled.
Now, toward the end of my child raising days, I'm finally getting the hang of it.
Kids need to know "No more arguing. Just do it." Yup.
And for me - teaching my kids to simply 'shush and obey' IS my job in obeying my God, who commanded me in Deut. 6 to teach my kids everything there is to know about Him and all His expectations. Teaching my children about authority - most importantly, HIS authority - is MY act of shushing and obeying my God... who commanded me.
Submitting to earthly authorities can be a way to learn how to submit to God. Kind of like - if we can simply listen to, trust and obey the flesh and blood parent screaming lunatic standing in our living room, then maybe we can understand how to submit to, trust and obey our much quieter, comforting, and always correct God.
And that's all I really wanted from this child tonight. Just to - shush - listen, and obey. That's all.
Really parents - it's okay to want and receive that. In fact, it's our job.