I've written about the Fear of Man before. It's rather a theme for me as my often good desire to please and bless people can quickly become an idol if it is not in its rightful place below and in harmony with my Fear of God. It is impossible to please either God nor man with those two desires not in their rightful place.
It's beautiful how God is always using our children to sanctify our hearts and gradually chip away at our pride and fear of man, isn't it? And for those unfamiliar with the saying "Fear of Man", it is basically that futile desire we have to please, impress or just be understood by people... that so often distracts us from our focus which should be pleasing God. We all struggle with this.
My thoughts are almost always occupied with the training of obedience (among all other virtues) in my children as this is something we highly value, as well as something many of my friends and family value highly as well. Herein lies the issue I've been thinking on: Those friends and family that highly value that our children are obedient. These people can be such a huge blessing for us. This is a good thing and should function as a beautiful source of accountability and re-enforcement to our children of the values we are laboring to impart to them. We should be open and teachable and so thankful for them!
And yet, as a parent will quickly discover, it's not so cut and dry. If all the answers were that easy we would not need faith. And without faith it is impossible to please God. You can read every good book there is, listen to every tape, go to every parenting conference and your kid will still throw you for a loop driving away from that wonderful conference and you will need to seek the Lord and wait expectantly for His faithful leading.
We all have different children and different values to some degree. As Christians I would hope we would all name our biggest value for our children to be raising them to glorify God. How this plays out can be vastly and beautifully different though.
Parenting requires 24/7 faith in God's leading and directing us. God gave these particular children to us for a reason and it is all part of his perfectly ordained plan for the way he wants them to grow, and the way He wants us to grow. Much of our learning and sanctification will take place during those difficult moments where our children expose our failure to train and teach them. But much of our growing and humbling will happen in those inevitable moments that our children will not perform up to par in the sight of others. Our children are a reflection of us and we mothers feel it deeply. Somehow they are born with the uncanny ability to get you in the most inconvenient and humiliating moment and astound you with something new.
So how then do we respond?
This morning I was reading the story in Mark of the beheading of John the Baptist. The words "because of his dinner guests" really stuck out at me in a new light today since I have been praying much on this aspect of parenting. I think we've all been in that situation where we're busy serving our dinner guests and so our training can either become lax and inconsistent, or... depending on the particular guests, we may discipline our children stricter or in anger if they have embarrassed us. Herod didn't actually want to have John beheaded, indeed scripture says that when the request from one of the guests came for John's head on the silver platter, "although the King was grieved, the King commanded it to be given because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison." He caved in to the fear of man with tragic results.
As a parent of seven little children who still has a ton to learn, I can tell you to learn to expect those inconvenient moments because they are a fertile field for the training ground that God uses to humble US and cause us to learn to look to Him for the harvest in our children. Our kids should absolutely be bearing much fruit as evidence of our diligence with them day in and day out, and this post is not to lower the bar with the standard at all. But they, like we, are sinners and even more immature with much "folly bound up in their hearts". They need us, as their parents who know and intimately understand their frames, their motives, their abilities and comprehensions, to fear God and not man as we disciple them. We need to mirror the love and graciousness with which God deals with us--no matter who is watching.
How often do we as adults display behavior inconsistent with God's diligence with us? God has NO FEAR OF MAN so he is never encumbered with pleasing the dinner guests. His relentless patience and His constant faithfulness to us never skips a beat.
We must be like God who disciplines in His time, with eternal eyes, with utmost wisdom, consistently, and not with changing standards! Whether we struggle with the tendency to be more lenient, or more strict in front of those dinner guests, seek God and His kingdom and righteousness first! One thing at a time...
A good harvest takes time, patience and WISDOM in regard to the specific crop we are seeking to grow. Our children have different strengths and weaknesses, temptations...and certainly are all at vastly different places in their spiritual, mental, physical capabilities! Your sweet dinner guest has no way of knowing the course of the past months and what your little sapling needs at this moment. We cannot approach a tree and judge the status of it's fruit without knowing where it was last season. A dinner guest may see one pathetic little apple, when his mother knows to rejoice in that one little precious apple that was not there a few days ago. Or a dinner guest may applaud a tree full of apparent beautiful fruit, whereas his mother knows from seeing close up that the fruit is infested and needs major attention.
But if we seek at all costs for that instant, outward and arbitrary obedience to please man, we too may foolishly lop off a tender little shoot sent to someday reap a beautiful harvest, not too terribly unlike the way that Herod lopped off the head of the beloved apostle.
Although... I don't doubt that his guests were pleased.