What Our Kids Teach Us About God

by Michael J. Klassen

“The moment your kids discover that they don’t have to do what you say, you’re done raising them.”

Kelley and I were talking to a counselor who was sharing some of his horror stories about raising his son. By the time his son man graduated from high school, this father was on a first-name basis with the police officers in his area. Out of his experience, the counselor shared with us this tidbit of wisdom.

Recently, his words replayed through my mind after a frustrating experience with one of my daughters. Despite our warnings, she still defiantly disobeyed us, knowing that consequences would follow. To be honest, I wanted to throw the book at her. Kelley says as a child, she was grounded for life quite a few times. I was trying to figure out how to ground my daughter for life and follow through with it!

Then the thought occurred to me, How does God respond when we disobey him?

Does he immediately ground us?

Does he strike us with lightening?

Does he take away our car keys for a week?

No.

When I lose my temper, gossip about someone, lust, or think only of myself, how does God respond?

If my heart is soft, I might feel the Holy Spirit beckoning me to confess my sin and be reconciled. But quite often—like my unnamed daughter—I don’t want to be told what to do. So what does God do then?

Nothing.

He lets me disobey. Think about it: God watches our every move. He knows every errant thought. He sees what we’re doing when no one else is around. He even detects our deepest selfish motivations. And he doesn’t stop us! It’s a wonder that humanity still exists because we all defy him. Regularly.

Proverbs 3:12 tells us, “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” The writer of Hebrews quotes this proverb and further explains “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all”(Hebrews 12:8).

So how does God discipline us?

If God didn’t love us, he’d either rescue us so he wouldn’t have to mess with us or he’d hurl a bolt of lightening whenever we sin.

Instead, he allows us to suffer the consequences of our choices. Then, when we’re at the end of ourselves, when our hearts are soft enough to listen, he whispers deep inside us, Why do you run from me? Why do you think you know better than me? Don’t you know that I love you and I only want what’s best for you?

Last week at church, my co-pastor and co-blogger Eugene Scott told our congregation, “God isn’t a controller, he’s a redeemer.” To redeem means to pay off, buy back, or recover.

When we disobey God, he doesn’t try to control our future actions by beating us up—at a minimum that’s called “condemnation”(see what Romans 8:1 says about it). First, he pays for our sin—actually he already paid for our sin—by sending Jesus to bear the punishment for our sin through his death on the cross. But then he helps us pick up the pieces and put them back together, if we let him do it. He redeems us by restoring us and making us better.

Believe me, I’m still an advocate for disciplining my teenage children, but my perspective about her changes a great deal when I realize how much we share in common.

Thank God for a loving, merciful God!

Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. In his spare time he works as a freelance writer.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “What Our Kids Teach Us About God

  1. Georgie-ann

    Pray first (and always). The ages of the people involved do matter. The temperaments of the people involved will also influence everything. We eventually cannot carry another person into heaven. They will have to face God on their own with the responsibility of how they have conducted themselves, listening to Him or not, while here. A parent can pray and intercede for their salvation, obedience, etc., but ultimately cannot acquire it for them in their place. Kind of like the responsibilities and outcomes of driving a car.

    Surprisingly, the age of 13 is an important “coming of age” number in religious tradition — Bar and Bat Mitzvohs in Judaism, and Confirmation in the Catholic Church and some other Christian denominations. Whether this is a close equivalent to the “age of accountability,” considering “normal” human intelligence and understanding development, I couldn’t say, although I’ve heard references made to such things. I find that very sobering, as we tend to “baby” our youth these days in almost obscene ways sometimes — (just figurative speech coming from a shocked oldster, apologies added).

    We’ve established and virtually enshrined a path of co-dependence and co-responsibility that really is crippling to the personal human dignity and personal responsibility factors. We’ve confused and overly “mercified’ real moral and psychological human failings, almost “normalizing” them. These are very dangerous waters the young folks and their caring parents are “swimming in.” Polluted waters, lacking in real solid commonsense.

    I think it is very important for all to face the hard cold facts that beyond parental consequences, there are very painful and irreversible potential earthly consequences, and ultimately eternal consequences. This isn’t Disneyland or a sit-com, and we’re not made of unbreakable plastic. Beyond parents, “the world” begins to move in with its own brand of consequences.

    The bible praises and advises Wisdom, over and over. Speak Truth. Love. Do your best to lead, guide, inform, and correct. Ultimately, we’re each going to be “on our own,” and “for better or worse,” I suppose.

    We surely are blessed that God is a loving God, but we can’t take Him for granted in that way only. Scriptures also tell us that He is not mocked:

    Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

    God is the ultimate parent, more than fair and forgiving, but I get the feeling that He is no “sugar daddy” either.

  2. JP Moyer MD

    A whole rather new and fresh perspective on disciplining grandchildren! They can do things that push “big old buttons” and that subsequently leading to ire, time out, taking away the iPad. BUT at the end of the session, they plead for reacceptance. I need to realize God’s love in all this, in the moment when the anger is bubbling, BUT not to become my grandchild’s door matt, cave in and ignore the incident. They need the training, not to is catastrophic, with far reaching sequelae. You got to be fair and forgiving with 5 and 7 year olds, but they do crank your emotional springs. Expect it and love them after the issue resolves …then the iPad is returned.
    If we are consistent, they do change, the backtalk gets less and less, they connect the aberrant behavior with the consequences.

  3. Georgie-ann

    Amen to all that, John! I did realize how hard it would be to minister an “ultimate” punishment — (such as “eternal separation and damnation”) — to one of my own, in spite of momentary very regrettable circumstances. Was it because I knew there was “something better in there” than what was currently “going down?” Or is our love for our own just so blind (us being evil yet capable of giving good gifts to our own)? I can’t really say, but I had to figure that if I would wish to spare my own son the wrath of God, I should also purpose to carry that same “soft spot” in my heart for others as well, in spite of how things appear. Since I’m not the judge anyway, it doesn’t really matter what I think I would want to do — and I would certainly recommend taking God and His Words very seriously at all times.

    Matthew 7:11 “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

  4. Georgie-ann

    After backing up the seriousness of respecting God and His Word, and affirming that no matter what “people” may say and/or want to believe or disbelieve, it is God who has the final words — on anything and everything. We also know the story of “the Prodigal Son” and that our decisions and choices do matter eventually for our own lives. We also can read the daily newspapers for plenty of info on lives gone seriously awry. It’s sad that we don’t read and see enough about the truly “righteous,” and the benefits and blessings they bring to the world’s situations everyday as well. But God does have “His people” living right here among us, persevering in struggles and sacrifices in order to glorify Him.

    Why sacrifices? This is a good question and an important point in this discussion.

    In the journey from dependence (on parents) and “personal innocence,” to independence (standing on your own before God) and “personal responsibility” — (baby, child, adolescent, adult growth stuff) — we pass through many stages and make many adjustments along the way,…and “recalculating” as we go along, from time to time! Nowadays, we seem to want to enjoy the process as much as possible AND be successful as much as possible, two things that do not always go hand in hand. “Biting the bullet” on certain issues, “reining in the horses”, setting limits and restrictions, is not as willingly and firmly and respectfully adhered to as in times past, culturally speaking. Taking the “easy (less interactive, less confrontative) way out” — allowing the very available distractions surrounding us to “do the baby-sitting” — as a general policy too early and consistently, creates a situation in which children are “spoiled” by parents, schools and media, and led into thinking way too early that they “know what’s best” for themselves (i.e., “what they want”), when nothing could be further from the truth. So, in this way a stage is being set for many battles, both earthly and spiritual. “Who knew” the devil could look like “innocent” toy ads springing up everyday in the e-mail, with one provocative sale offering after another, sufficient — simply “by suggestion” of one thing more that you don’t have — to make an “entitled” and already indulged child feel immediately deprived, even depressed. And do we ever abound in plenty of such vicious, suggestive, tempting and self-defeating, circles going on around us all the time. The co-mingling of innocence with the hidden power of suggestion is a very dangerous recipe, that will very likely bear some bitter fruit on “down the road.”

    Which brings us to sacrifice! (to be continued shortly!)

  5. Georgie-ann

    (cont.) edits: “mercified”,…baby-sitting/entertaining

    It was said that some American Indians were afraid that having a photograph taken of them by someone, would “steal their soul,” and they would “opt out” of a picture opportunity. That sounded very strange to me when I first heard about it. But considering the real “power” of external attractions to hook onto us and into us, — (and to successfully pull our energies, attention and desires “out of us,” from a state of contentment and personal recollectedness, to an emptied-out [“robbed”] state of internal incompleteness, where a continual yearning for “personal fulfillment through consumption of externals” becomes the order of the day) — I think I am beginning to see a relationship between what can be called the “condition of our soul” and the ways in which we are programmed/driven/co-opted to “connect in” with the myriad options in the world around us today.

    In many cases, we are simply overwhelmed with stimuli, but hardly notice, as we’ve adapted, “become used to it.” Our peaceful soul is almost drowning, and we barely hear its cries, while we cope cope cope, (and hope hope hope), and “keep on keepin’ on” on the treadmill of our overly engineered and demanding/programmed existence. In some cases, what else can we do?

    Jesus sacrificed much more than His flesh, His body, on the Cross. I don’t think that any of us can imagine what He really went through and what happened there. But before going to the Cross, He also sacrificed (personally surrendered) His will to the Father:

    Luke 22:42 “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

    Something is “going on” about wills, and personal identities during adolescence. During the time of adolescence and the parenting of adolescents, the relationship of our independent wills, thoughts and feelings, will come into question and confrontation, at whatever stage of development they stand. Temptations to either over-parent or under-parent will be confusing and challenging. An emerging individual — more ignorant of the dangers they face than they can ever imagine — needs to find its own stability, purpose, balance, wings, and eventually its own place of personal responsibility. Conditioning input has been coming from the “outside” in: from parents, society, school, friends, church, tv, etc.. How will this person digest and process all this? What kinds of unexpected “nasties” might be lurking in some dark corners of their unexplored lives, while they fantasize adventure, fun and “freedom”? To some extent it must be a time of faith and testing on both sides of the equation, and if there were a simple formula to apply, we would surely all know how to do it by now!,…so, there’s not one. Ouch.

    “Obedience in-training” to God’s Word, to a parent, to the laws of a good society, are good first steps toward really becoming “Obedient to God.” God truly wants us to obey Him, because we hear Him, because we’re understanding Him, because we have surrendered/sacrificed our own (fallen, “no-good” personal, self-willed) will to be joined to His nature (Righteous Love) and His Will, because we trust Him and Who He is. God wants us to seek/see/know and understand the difference between all the things that call to us, and choose Him — on our own and by ourselves — as “the pearl of great price.”

    The more attached and adapted to earthly reasonings, thinking, personalities and distractions we have become, the likely the harder or longer a discerning separation (between following an earthly will or God’s will) will be, but in the end — if and when a successful separation does occur — it may be all that more clear and definite.

    Prayer, perseverance, and obeying God, furthers and blesses.

    “Don’t give up the ship!”

    (-: God IS Good, no matter what!

  6. Georgie-ann

    As I was just dozing off to sleep, I suddenly saw in my “mind’s eye,” the image of “Christ, the Good Shepherd.” This is certainly not a frequent occurrence, and I was impressed to go ahead and explain something about that image here.

    Christ, the Good Shepherd, is often depicted standing with his shepherd’s crook, carrying a lamb over His shoulders. It is an old and probably familiar painting, usually very kind, gentle and peaceful in its feeling.

    However, “modern man” is usually not familiar with some of the shepherding details that this image might represent, a story it could be telling.

    It happens that sometimes an errant lamb, inclined to wander and stray from the flock, is born. The typical “handling” of this problem involved the shepherd finding the lamb, bringing it back, and in persistent cases, the shepherd would actually break one of the legs of the lamb, and carry it on his shoulders as the flock moved along seeking food, until it was healed. The story goes that such lambs, afterwards, would never leave the side of the shepherd from then on! They would become the most familiar, the most devoted and faithful!

    Such practical “facts of life” can be quite simple, but amazing and effective! It is said that “all truth is parallel” — this meaning that true principles have broad applications. God has placed great wisdom “in our bones” from the time of the “ancients.” Are we still listening?

    Luke 15:4-7

    4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

  7. Great reminder about shepherds Georgie-ann. It’s the kind of word picture that many people don’t like. In my experience, God doesn’t usually “break the leg” of his sheep–we do a pretty good job of breaking it ourselves. But then he offers to pick us up and carry us while we heal.

  8. Georgie-ann

    True enough! We surely don’t like pain, receiving it or doling it out to a “loved one.” Even emotionally (psychologically) speaking, one of our greatest hindrances to being healed and “set free” is that we bury our pain, in order to avoid it, to avoid acknowledging and re-experiencing it.

    We limp instinctively to minimize physical pain, and also “instinctively” practice “denial” to hide and avoid emotional pains. In doing so, we end up carrying and holding onto that pain much longer than is really necessary, and we usually don’t even realize that we are doing it!

    “Me?,…I’m fine!,…Whaddaya mean, I’m looking all bent outta shape, uptight, and have been really grouchy and miserable lately?” Even though we’re holding things/issues buried in avoidance, they eventually produce internal stresses and chronic, persistent compulsive compensations that are noticeable anyway. But we remain oblivious!

    The old “ignorance is bliss” syndrome.

    Well, this all changes when we find that we can bring our hurts and pains directly to Christ in prayer, and actually release them and be healed/set free. Of course this involves a “miraculous” element to begin with, getting to know Christ for ourselves in this way, but ultimately it becomes “standard operating procedure” for the devotee, and the greatest of blessings!

    But it only works as we acknowledge the hurt, actually re-experiencing it. “The truth will set you free.” Just as a splinter hurts on its way in, it will also hurt on its way out, but “out” is permanently relieved and much much better in the final analysis. We’ve learned to trust a doctor to perform such necessary procedures, and we can learn to trust Christ in this way too, with the issues of our hearts.

    Christ, the Good Shepherd. Christ, the Healer. Our Good Shepherd. Our Healer. God knows we need “Someone to Watch Over Me” while we attempt to navigate this earthly existence, just as a little wandering lamb needs the protective oversight of the wise and knowledgeable shepherd. There really are wolves and dangers “out there!” And we do get hurt, and we do encounter pain, whether we intend to or not. It’s good to learn what to do with it. Avoidance is not always best.

    Us “moderns” have designed an existence that is culturally indulgent, encourages broad naivete, and is basically unrealistic in many ways. We’ve exalted “the child” to kingship! “Politically correct” is only one of our outstanding foibles. (And “please, don’t get me going!”)

    From another ancient culture, and I couldn’t tell you which one at this point, there came a saying: “Treat your son as a prince until he is 5, and as a slave until 18. After that treat him like your best friend.”

    Some more “wisdom in our bones,” I suppose.

    I’m reminded of the stake we place in the ground alongside a new plant. We fully intend to firmly tie and anchor that plant to that stake, that reference point and support, so that it will grow in the direction we intend,…up. This takes having a foresight-ful plan in mind, and the dedicated husbandry of a faithful and knowledgeable gardener.

    God wishes to be that stake in our lives, and to have faithful servants who will train others to be well-aligned with His plans and purposes — not in order to be a “party-pooper,”…but in order to be able to Bless us!

    God desires a rich harvest in His Kingdom of Righteousness!

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