Raising children isn’t nearly as easy as my parents made it look. Somehow, when I was a kid, I never really considered that my parents had a tough job to do. Though they had five children, and though we kept them pretty active, I guess it never occurred to me that it was a difficult and demanding task to raise us—not only to keep us fed and clothed, but to train us to be productive members of society, to train us to love one another and, more importantly, to teach us to love the Lord. They succeeded admirably in all of those tasks. They made it look easy, at least from my perspective as one of the kids. But eight years of parenting has shown me that it really is not easy at all. Raising children is a trial; it is a constant battle. It has its moments of great joy, of course. But it is a task that requires constant vigilance and great consistency.
One trial we’ve encountered again and again is in having our children obey us obediently. We want our children to obey us well. We do not want to have children to huff and puff and roll their eyes and stamp their feet even when they do what we ask of them. We do not want children who obey in body while their hearts are filled with rebellion and hatred of authority. Yet somehow this seems to be their natural tendency.
The issue of authority is a tough one even for adults. A few weeks ago my friend, my son and I went to the home opener for the Toronto Blue Jays. It turned out to be kind of a rowdy game with people running onto the field and others getting dragged out of the stands due to poor behavior. At one point, just a section over from us, a man was hauled out by the police. As soon as an officer showed up the crowd started chanting, “Let him stay! Let him stay!” They jeered at the officer and at the security guards. They laughed at the authorities, threw things at them, and did all they could to mock and belittle them. Their hatred of authority was tangible; it was alarming for those of us who remained sober and who, with our senses about us, knew that only authority holds off the utter breakdown of society. Our human sinfulness causes our hearts to rebel at the first sign of authority. So often we obey only with great reluctance and with our hearts in utter rebellion.
After yet another episode yesterday, where one of my children obeyed with great reluctance and a great show of disgust, I began to think about this heart of rebellion. I began to think about my own sin and about whether I really do any better than they do. My mind skipped around from sin to sin—those sins that continue to plague my life. I thought of one in particular and quickly saw my own reluctance to obey God in what He says I need to do about it. His commands are clear. I need to repent of that sin, I need to forsake that sin, and I need to love obedience more than that sin. It is only when I learn to love God and His commands more than I love that sin that I will be freed from it.
But I’m like a kid. I like that sin and I hate the authority that places itself over me and tells me to let that sin go. I roll my eyes, I grind my teeth, and I feel my heart rebel. In my heart I tell God that I’d rather sin than obey Him; I effectively tell Him that right now I’d rather have my sin than have Him. This sin is more important to me than my relationship with the Creator of the universe. Oh, I love that sin so much.
So I guess I’m not too different from my children. The remedy they need is the same one I need. Like me, they need to see that authority is given to us as a gracious gift from God. They need to learn to honor authority and to see it as something given to restrain us rather than annoy us. And they need to honor that authority and to obey it joyfully, willingly, immediately and with a joyful heart. This is what I need to do with my sin—I need to hear and heed God’s Word. And this is what they need to do with their sin—hear and heed my words as I seek to teach them what God would have them do.
It seems that God’s job in training me is at least as difficult as mine in training my children.