Recently, Mike and I have been talking with Nickels about WHY obedience to us is so important. In the past, our catch phrase was always something about commandment number five being the one with a promise of a long life in return for honoring Mom and Dad.
As with most "Because I said so" responses, this one didn't seem to hit its intended target, even though we had pointed out dozens of times that it was directly given to us by God who could, after all, smite us at any given moment.
And, as I imagine it, smiting is a bit more severe than a spanking or a long timeout or loss of a toy.
Still, our point was being spoken over and over and over and over and over......again. We began to wonder if our children were overachievers when it came to earwax production, one of the only things that would explain how they couldn't hear us despite the broken record of our explanation.
Then, as I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard a pastor talking about obedience. My ears perked up. I don't need a heavy duty ear cleaning to latch onto information. AHEM.
What he stated was so simple yet so incredibly true: the reason we must teach our children to be obedient to us, as parents, is that we are a TANGIBLE source of correction for our children when they are disobedient.
In short, when we require obedience, we are flesh and blood that our children can see, hear, and respond to. When they are adults and, as parents, we no longer demand obedience, it shifts to an invisible God whom they must recognize through His Word and voice.
Unlike us, He will not be standing in front of them when he requires obedience and holds them accountable. They will have to discern that their actions of obedience are proper or improper based solely on answers to prayer, the Bible, and the state of their life.
I imagine it like this: if your parents told you about swimming but never took you to a pool and made you take lessons, and when you were an adult you fell in the water, what would happen? Even though you were an adult, you'd be totally unprepared. All the lectures about swimming wouldn't mean a thing because you never were held accountable to actually swim on your own.
You probably wouldn't know how to get to the edge of the pool to save yourself. You might not be able to keep your head above water. You might, accidentally, drown.
If we choose not to teach our children lessons of obedience, they will drown as adults when God requires them to be obedient to Him.
We are demonstrating the relationship our children will ultimately have with God in this whole issue of obedience. On earth, the lessons we teach prepare the way for them to hear God's voice of correction.
If our children aren't taught of the importance of God and don't learn to obey us, they certainly won't be able to listen to and obey an invisible God. And, let's face it: the time we have to influence our kids spiritual walk is fairly short. Once they leave the nest, they have to have a solid foundation.
If we've taught this lesson of obedience well, when our children have ethical questions as adults, they will turn to God and obey what He says (through prayer or reading the Bible).
They will be obedient in prayer to Him, in all circumstances. When they feel happy, rejected, thankful, sorrowful, etc., those feelings will be channeled to Christ when we are no longer available to hear them.
When they wander off the right path, our children will hearken back to times we corrected them and recognize God's correction as right and good.
When we demand that our children obey us, we are not being mean or controlling or abusive. We are showing love. We are demonstrating relationship. We are teaching them the very lessons that God teaches us in the Bible: obedience has rewards and disobedience brings punishment.
Nickels understood this connection. Or, at least, he seemed to. He has, certainly, been more willingly obedient recently, so we are taking that as progress.
This is one of those issues of parenthood that we all struggle with. We think "Wouldn't it be wonderful if my child would just obey me?" or compare him to the child next door who always seems to be so compliant.* And, as they age, it is often difficult for us to readily figure out how to move our children to obedience.
Yet, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we aren't parents by accident. Just like anything worthwhile, sometimes waiting for our children to become obedient takes patience. And practice.
Whether you felt the incredible responsibility of training your child the first time s/he was put in your arms or you are just realizing it now at five or ten or fifteen, it is never too late to start teaching honor through obedience. It is one of the very tangible way you can point out Christ to your kids.
And, if you are like me? The legacy you leave behind, through your children, is right up there with the most important jobs I have to complete in this world before I leave it.
God, grant us the wisdom to accomplish this task to your glory. Amen.
*HINT: He's not. In front of you, SURE! In front of his parents? Not.so.much.