Last week I had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Douglas and Nancy Wilson at a family conference in Sandestin. It was beneficial for me in many ways, and on many different levels and I am really glad our family was finally able to participate in this annual event. One of the things I realized during the weekend was how differently I would want to parent if we were just starting our family. A different tone and coming from a different place, so to speak.
Since my world is currently overflowing with mamas and new babies I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and observations here. But first let me give a little back story on our early years as new parents. Basically, we were utterly clueless and winging it. We kind of had a vague sense of what we wanted but no idea how to go about it. We knew we wanted obedient children and to get them we knew we had to train them in obedience. Sounds like a good, noble, and holy goal, right?
It becomes apparent very quickly though that we all want that good, noble and holy thing but there are about a gazillion ideas on how to get there. However, I think there are two broad categories that those gazillion of ideas fall into. There is a “training for obedience” and a “nurturing of obedience”. Please keep in mind that I say broad in a very sweeping generalized broad kind of way. This is not a judgement call on any particular methodology or practice but rather is a glimpse in how my own view has grown and shifted over time.
To be sure, regardless of which category you fall into, there is training that must take place so my preference for one over the other has more to do with the how of the process. I’m sure in the grand scheme of things the difference between the two ways is not as large as it currently seems to me while it is all fresh in my head. But, being at this vantage point of my life, having raised up my children past those early years, and now seeing the fruit born out in the lives of the children who come from both categories (mine as well as those in my circle of living) I do see a notable difference in the sweetness of the fruit and it’s aroma.
In the beginning we fell firmly in the training for obedience camp. We were pretty tight in keeping the rules and we had plenty of them. Don’t get me wrong. Our home was still happy and loving but we were in training mode all the time. Everything was a training in obedience opportunity. Honestly, there were a lot of no’s. We didn’t move things out of reach from little hands, we trained them to not touch. Everything was out and a lot of it was off limits so consequently we spent a lot of time saying “No!” and “Don’t mess with that!”. Which really doesn’t sound that bad does it? Until you look at how God parents.
God created the heavens and the earth, made this fantastic garden and gave it to Adam and Eve as their home. Think about it. All of creation was at their fingertips, and there was exactly one no in the whole place. It was a garden full of yeses. That no was smack in the middle of the garden but it was the only one. Everything else was a yes. That fruit? Yes. Want to climb that tree? Yes. Go for a walk over there? Sure! Swimming in that pond? Absolutely! What? That tree over there? No child, not that one.
I am in no way advocating letting your children run free and wild without any boundaries. I am advocating for the rules to be as simple and few as possible. Instead of having that fragile and sentimentally priceless knick knack on the coffee table where it can dazzle and catch their eye and be used as a training opportunity, why not move it out of reach? Instead of a house full of no’s why not a house full of yeses with the only rule be that you obey? Do we really think that without the boot camp obstacle course of off limit things that there will be no way of teaching obedience? I submit that there are plenty of ways and opportunities to train and teach our children obedience that nurtures that obedience in a way that becomes less about rule keeping and more about loving the rule giver.
And isn’t that what we want? To raise up children that not only keep the rules but they keep them because they love the Rule Giver? The great Rule Breaker wants us to believe that we need more rules, that life and freedom is found in keeping a bunch of rules. But the truth is that way back in the garden there was one rule and most of us think it was as simple as, “Don’t eat of that tree.” But the reality was that the rule was, “Obey God.”