“Mooooommmm!!! Addie’s on her ipod and she won’t take the dog out! I took (the other dog) out and she’s just sitting there doing nothing!”
“Addie, did you take the dog out?”
“Addie, are you allowed to play games before you get ready for school?”
“I’m not playing gaaaaaames. I’m looking something up.”
“You know you’re not allowed to use your ipod unless you are dressed and ready for school, you’ve already eaten breakfast, and taken your dog out. Give me your ipod.”
Said child runs away screaming and avoiding any and all responsibility for as long as humanly possible. Tattle tale child gloats and reminds me of the contrast between her “goodness” and her sister’s “badness” including a sales pitch to take her shopping later. Youngest child watches the drama unfold with concerned face but waits until later on when her compliance level is very high to ask once again, “Mommy, what percentage am I being good right now?”
Unfortunately this is not an unfamiliar or outstanding scenario in my home. I have two who dabble in the art of manipulation through obedience and one all out rebel. I guess it should be no surprise that two sinners managed to breed three more sinners.
Teaching my children at home affords me a commodity other parents do not usually have an abundance of – time. I have lots of time to spend correcting, encouraging, punishing, rewarding, and teaching them how to be a respectable, responsible, literate member of society. Well, those are my three main goals on this joyride anyway.
Still, more oft than not I find myself at a total loss for how to get there. I’m realizing that it may be because I personally don’t always know how to get there. I’m a sinner, too, after all, and why I ever expected to clone myself and end up with a better version is beyond me. All I got were three, going on four, carbon copies. Drat. If I want to help them and retain my sanity, I have to figure out how exactly it is that God changes me.
We began a group study on the book of Proverbs. Proverbs offers wisdom for life and godliness. It got me to thinking, more or less, evaluating, what wisdom is practically in my life. What does wisdom look like day in and day out in my relationships, my demeanor, and, especially, my parenting? All I could think of was star charts and how much I hate them. So I left Bible study scratching my head asking myself why do I hate star charts so much anyway?
I hate star charts because I am daughter number one and daughter number three. I’m the recovering prideful obey-er who is ever tempted to manipulate Pharisaically. My husband is more like daughter number two – the act first, think later out and out rebel. Nevertheless, truth be told, we are both, both.
Therefore, I know star charts will only feed the already existing pride and arrogance of daughters one and three. I also know that nothing short of prayer, fasting, daily Biblical instruction, and likely a few lost limbs and several nervous breakdowns will stop daughter two. Ok, maybe none of that will stop her. But I have to try, folks. God, help me.
Pastor says the way to avoid prideful, heartless obedience is to preach the gospel. Everyday. He says the way to avoid lawless rebellion is to preach the gospel. Everyday. Preach it to yourself. Preach it to your children. Yes and amen. My question, and forgive me once again for my ignorance as an 18 year old Christ follower who should sure well know better by now, is still, how? Practically, daily, how do I do that?
Because I do study the Bible daily. (It’s a high ranking item on the star chart for me.) I open “school” for the kids with “Bible class” and everyday we “talk” about what the gospel is, what it means, and the like. We have Bible based history, science, reading, Bible study, Sunday school, Bible memorization, nighttime devotions, family prayer, individual prayer, etc. I could go on. Still, as five spoiled sinners we have a mind blowing capacity to learn and know without doing and living.
That’s why I no sooner begin reading the Bible lesson and a crayon fight breaks out. It’s why I don’t finish the lesson for my anger over the said fight. It’s why no one gets it even if I do finish. My kids aren’t disobedient because they do not know the gospel. They are disobedient because I am disobedient; because I am all too often not rightly applying the gospel I teach them in my own behavior.
I know what you’re thinking. Someone needs a star chart. Perhaps. I think maybe the pastor is right, though. In fact, I know he is. But what kind of star chart follows the gospel?
I picture it looking something like this:
Self Control Recklessness
Now we have a usable chart. I mean, maybe it’s ok to remember the good things we do. Well, as long as we don’t tell our left hands. (See Matthew 6:3.) Maybe the chart just needs another side. It needs balance. It needs a “bad things” side where we write those, too, so that we might remember, confess, and have to physically erase them afterward. After all, wasn’t that the fault of the Pharisees? They kept a record of rights they should have been forgetting and never considered their own sin they should have been remembering. In so doing, they refused the gospel. No one whose star chart is full on only the good side needs a Savior and no all out rebels care much about getting stars on either side anyway.
There must be hope for both kinds of sinners! While the religious sinners are asking, “Why wouldn’t Jesus love me? My star chart is full of good!” and the rebel sinners are asking, “Why would Jesus love me? I don’t even have a chart and if I did it would be full of demerits!” we must be responding with grace rather than stars and demerits. The answer to sinner number 1 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their good works are to their spiritual life. The answer to sinner number 2 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their bad works are to their spiritual life. Both types of sinners need the gospel, but giving it to them looks somewhat different practically because we sin differently.
Star charts don’t work but the gospel does. Who knew? Insert head into hands.
As I finish typing this little ditty ipod void Addie urges correction for her playing on her ipod before she got ready for school sister. “I think she should get her ipod taken away like me because she’s doing the same thing I did.” Rebel turned tattle; tattle turned rebel. Can a girl even get some consistency around here??? Excuse me while I attempt to start
preaching living the gospel again today.
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