For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
I, like most moms out there, have read many books, been to many classes & seminars, listened to podcasts, and talked to more experienced moms to get wisdom on training my boys. I can’t count the number of times that I have heard or read the simple advice to always take your children back to the Bible. And I always agree! The Bible is God’s authoritative Word to us. It gives life, convicts, humbles, shows us the path of righteousness, and shows us God!
We have tried to create a Bible-centered home. We read the Word together. We pray together. We talk about biblical things together. But yesterday I realized that I am still trying to control my kids. I have a great desire for them to know and love the Lord, but I also have a great desire for them to behave exactly the way I want! These things don’t have to be in conflict with one another, but they do have to be properly prioritized. In my mind, the condition of their hearts is most important. My actions speak otherwise, though.
Ryan has always had a tendency to just do whatever was before him and not to think much about it. For nearly 6 years, I have tried every discipline technique that I’ve ever heard of to get him to change his behavior. And we have talked over and over again about what is pleasing to the Lord. I was trying to change his heart. But it is God who must change the heart! And He does so most often through his Word. God made this very clear to me in the episode that unfolded yesterday.
We have a tall shelf by our front door. The bottom of it is reserved for dropping off our shoes when we come in. Recently Ryan has begun standing on the bottom shelf, holding onto a higher shelf, and pushing his shoes off with his feet. I have repeatedly punished him for this. We have explained that he could pull this tall, heavy shelf over on himself and kill himself. Yet the behavior continued. When he did this again yesterday, I pulled him off the shelf, sat him on the stair, and told him that he would have no snack. He got mad and made his displeasure known. I left him there until he calmed down. Then I called him over to the table and handed him his Bible. I had highlighted Ephesians 6:1-3:
Children, obey your parents in the LORD, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
I asked him to read it to me. He did, very quietly. Then I explained that the reason he will enjoy long life if he is listening to his parents is because we will constantly be warning him and protecting him from the dangers — like the shelf — that could quickly end his life. That’s simplified, of course, and we talked more than that, but that statement was what he got. I had him copy the verse. He quietly sat and did it. He did not complain or make ugly faces. Then, a tear slipped down his cheek. So I extended mercy and let him stop at the end of verse 1. He looked up at me with another tear slipping down and said, “Mommy, I’m still a little bit sad.”
My heart swelled with love as I pulled him into my lap and we talked about true repentance and brokenness before God. How He takes pleasure in it, and extends mercy and grace to us. Then, to demonstrate grace, I gave him the snack.
Then I had to run to the Lord in repentance as I saw that until that moment I had always tried to fix Ryan. I had tried to manipulate his circumstances to make him what I wanted. I had not turned him over to the Lord for direction and discipline. I had not taken him back to the Word to allow God to convict and mold his heart.
I was also convicted that I must know the Word well enough to take him to the right passage in those times. I have to be diligent to study it and remember it so that I can direct the boys hearts to it.
I’m sure that I won’t punish, discipline, and train perfectly every time, but I plan to seek His grace in those times of need (Hebrews 4:16) through His word which is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3).