Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Rearing - and children too

I'm a mom. I have two children - Paul and Anya. Love them to pieces. Of course, they drive me equally as crazy - but God uses kids to grow us too. :P

Anyways, over the past four years - I've really struggled with being a mom. First, I wanted to continue working and be a mom - until I held that little bundle we call Paul in my arms for the first time, and then the very idea of leaving him alone with someone else just tore me apart inside. All the LDS mothers seemed to have it all together, so when there were times when I'd be so lonely for adult conversations, so unprepared for each new stage, and naive about everything - I felt like a complete loser. I think personally though, every mom goes through this regardless if she's Mormon, Christian, atheist, or any other religion or lack of.

Since my mother was physically abusive to me as a child - I have been VERY much against spanking. I've also battled with the feeling of being incapable of being a mother for fear of repeating my own mother's mistakes or the mistakes of my parents - whom I love dearly, but do acknowledge that there are some things I wish they had done differently with me. I've read books about how to properly discipline children and keep their self esteem high. From the "What to Expect" books to a faith based book called, "Ephraim's Child" geared to LDS parents with children from the tribe of Ephraim (which ours are since Steve is from this "tribe" according to his blessing). "The Baby Whisperer", "To Train up a Child" and finally to the my unfinished read, "Shepherding a Child's Heart". And yet, I still feel incapable of getting my children under control. I feel no closer to breaking their will than a year ago, two years ago. And I constantly look back to when they were babies and wish I had broken their will when they were babies instead now when they are almost 3 and 4.

I've been blessed to listen to sermons at work at night, and was recommended this sermon series from Manna Church - a favorite now. On a sidenote, Steve and I want to try to travel to NC in March 2008 and a MUST for us will be attending Manna. Why airline tickets are SO expensive is beyond me. :P

Back on track, I've been listening to a 10 part series called, "Fix the Leak and Repair the Floor" - the last three sermons in this series is dedicated to child rearing and is subtitled, "The 10 Commandments of Child Rearing". They are AWESOME! Feel free to listen to them - Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

They are in favor of spanking - something I've only recently begun to support and still am not consistent with it because my kids are very willful so I hate having to spank them so much. However, this series really made me question my own discipline methods, my attitude towards discipline vs God's view of it, and finally my understanding of being a Christ follower. Yep, all that from three sermons about child rearing.

First, my understanding of being a Christ follower. God has been using this series to bring me to the realization that my prayer life needs CPR. While I love God, love His Word, and do enjoy praying to Him when I make the time in accordance to how I see fit - I don't pray often enough and personally, not properly. As I was listening to the sermon, in part two, the pastor says something along the lines of how some of us listeners had been abused by our parents and therefor are very against spanking - that we need to admit that and admit that we won't take it to the cross and just be honest. I found myself wondering, "What does this phrase, 'take it to the cross' mean? And why do people always refer to it?" Even our Pastor here in Vegas makes references to taking things to the cross. This morning, I asked Barbie - "What does this mean?" I think I surprised her that I didn't understand.

She explained to me it's about calling out to God that we can't handle something and giving it to Him. Simple enough. Then she explained that some churches (like hers for example) have large crosses at the front of the sanctuary where people can go and sit at the feet of the cross and pray. Made sense to me - much better than when I was a teenager and I thought Christians were hypocritically engaged in idolatry - worshiping a cross during church services. I didn't get the significance.

While listening to her, I realized I was thinking to myself, "That's it? Just prayer?" Just prayer seems too easy to me. I keep forgetting the the gospel itself is easy. It's simple. It's not complicated with secure feeling rituals and practices. Prayer is easy, but for someone like me - I make it complicated and hard. :P

I realized I need to get a Biblical perspective on prayer, and meditate on that instead of what I think prayer should be about or how I think I should engage myself in it. In the sermons Pastor Fletcher keeps referring to the manual (ie the Bible) and I need to stop trying to redesign the wheel and start looking to the instructions God has already left me.

Secondly, I realized that even though I knew the Biblical attitudes of discipline - that even God disciplines us ONLY because He loves us, I still have a bad attitude towards it. I see the short vision - my kids crying because I have disciplined them, instead of the long term on where they have self control and qualities that will help them not only survive but thrive in society because they will be set apart from society's lower standards.

Finally, I realized that while I've been thinking I was discipling my kids properly, as one person was quoted, I "spank too much". The Pastor instructed that it needs to be an event. If the child is debating in their heads a smart on the bottom and they can steal the cake - they'll steal the cake. Because the discipline doesn't capture their attention and make them overcome their own will. This is going to be challenging for me because simply put, I can't imagine spanking them like this. But as a parent, I can't imagine letting Satan utterly destroy my children's lives either like Job or allow a king try to destroy my children like with David and Saul - BUT God did and His children grew because of it. (And just to be clear - I'm not saying that either of these are my goals BUT rather comparing how insignificant a spanking on the bottom is compared to what Job and David went through.)

Having a godly and Biblical perspective is not easy. And I think that as soon as I buckle down to do something - whether it be to not complain about an aching back, to serve my husband more, save money, or try to view child rearing from a Biblical perspective - I am immediately challenged by it. I want to go buy a new book or cd, I want to take time away from everything to nurse my back, I want Steve to serve me and not take time to serve him, I want to just put them back in that stagnant time out corner - I want to coast and submit to my flesh. I want to do my will, not God's. Notice the consistent phrase, "I WANT". But when I say, "no" to myself, when I discipline myself (which I'd rather do than God) I find it's easier the next time. I find I feel a little more dependent on God and acknowledge it more.And I think, that's what sanctification is all about.

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