When my wife saw me passing through, she quickly directed the boys to bring their troubles to me. Many times I have coached our children how to work things out between themselves; however, I could see that this incident was on another level.
So I crouched down to their eye level and began to investigate the details of the conflict. Just like little trial lawyers, my children frequently attempt to slant the "facts" in their favor, and have even been known to create new "facts" to avoid negative consequences associated with their choices.
As I listened to both sides, I began to think, Who is telling the truth? Which rule of the house has been violated? What should the consequences be for that action? Why can't my kids just be kind to one another? Why did my wife pass this discord off to me? I would really like to have had a little peace and quiet with my cup of coffee this morning.
Good parenting takes sacrifice. It takes a lot of time. It also takes wisdom, patience, gentleness, consistency, faithfulness, self-control, discernment, and kindness. Most importantly, it takes unconditional love. Good parenting takes the type of love that can see through the unpleasant behavior and hurtful manipulative words and continue to give your children what they really need.
If you look at this short list of requirements for good parenting and are as overwhelmed as I am, then I say WONDERFUL! Overwhelmed is exactly how we were designed to feel because we were never intended to be good parents in and of ourselves. Rather, God created us to be the container and expresser of the only perfect parent. God doesn't want us to be good parents for Him. He wants us to parent our children in and through His life.
In John 12:49, Jesus says, "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me."
The Father directly communicated to Jesus in His mind, and Jesus "let" the Father's light shine through his body language, behavior and His words. Jesus commands His followers to operate in the same manner. He compares them to a branch and tells them to let the vine life flow through to produce the fruit. Jesus tells the disciples that He is the light of the world. Then Jesus compares them to lamps and tells them to let their light shine. Jesus says that rivers of living water will flow from those who believe in Him. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that the "rivers of living water" that Jesus mentioned referred to God himself. The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, describes believers as clay pots holding and displaying a great treasure.
Through His word, we see that God is all the attributes and resources we need for good parenting. God is unconditional love. God is patience, kindness, and self-control. God is discernment and wisdom.
So why doesn't the fruit of good parenting always demonstrate itself through us. The answer is because we don't "let" it. The mind and the will control the valve that permits either living water or polluted water to flow to the sprinkler head which is the body. The mind and the will control the switch that decides whether to remain in the dark or to allow God's electricity to make our light bulb of a body glow with the light of Jesus.
So practically, how does being the vine, the lamp, the well and the clay pot look in day-to-day parenting? In order to get a snapshot of what being a "container" parent can look like, let us travel back into my Saturday morning incident.
As I knelt down to discuss the conflict with my boys, the Spirit told me that this conflict was an opportunity to teach them the truth of God's word and ways. That wise thought came into direct conflict with my feelings of wanting to have a quiet cup of coffee and read the news. So my first opportunity to "let my light shine" was to disregard my emotions, submit to what the Father wanted to do for my boys, and really engage mentally in the process.
Second, I needed God's wisdom to understand the past and what had happened between them. Since I wasn't there, I needed the Father's all-seeing wisdom. The Spirit revealed the truth, and it was not good for one of my sons. In a fit of anger, he had hit and kicked his brother.
So I asked the offender to come with me to his room. Anticipating the negative consequences of his choice to hit his brother, he began to cry as we walked up the steps together. Through his tears, he reminded me that he had already asked his brother to forgive him. In my mind, I had the thought, "I hate it for you son, but you have to learn that actions have consequences". Every time I enforce negative consequences for offences committed by my children, I am showing them how important it is to learn that principle of life.
As we sat down on the bed, I continued thinking through different options for consequences while the offending son sat crying in my lap. A thought then entered my mind from the Spirit that I should use this particular incident to teach my son the meaning of grace. So my third opportunity to "let my light shine" presented itself.
For the next ten minutes, I walked my son through what he had done and informed him that he deserved the consequences of his violation of the rules of our family. I then introduced the concept of grace and mercy and talked about how we all have been offered those gifts by Jesus Christ.
He latched onto what the Spirit was saying through me particularly when he understood that he would not experience the consequences of his violation. I ended our time with a big hug and sent him on his way with an exhortation not to hit in anger again.
Right before bedtime that night my wife asked our kids about their favorite part of the day. The offending son said that his favorite part was when his daddy showed him mercy after he hit his brother. As he shared, I thought, "How awesome. The Spirit taught him something through me today!"
Please don't look into this example and see a formula for how to teach your kids about mercy and grace. Every child is unique. If you were to copy exactly what I did and said with your child, it may backfire. Your child may or may not learn anything good at all. Maybe they would learn that there are not consequences when they break the rules. The ONLY formula to observe in my Saturday morning interruption is that we need to parent out of our Father's life. He alone is the only perfect parent.
Our parenting job is simply to listen to Father and then choose to be obedient to what He tells us. Then the vine life of Christ will flow through us to produce the fruit of good parenting. Then the treasure of the Holy Spirit within will shine through our container and display His life and light to our children, family and world. By Ben Brezina