Parenting Blog #1: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Who hasn’t heard this age-old adage? Even non-believers know what it means and dispute about it, although they probably don’t know its origin. It should be no surprise to Word-reading followers of Christ that it comes straight out of the Bible. Or does it?

No, I’m not about to launch into a rant about the merits of various forms of punishment. Go ahead and exhale. I want to address the fact that this little maxim, like most Biblical tidbits that make it into culture’s collective consciousness, is a half-truth. Before I go any further, here is the actual verse in its entirety.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. – Proverbs 13:24 ESV

Why am I starting here? Well, I’ll tell you where I didn’t start. I did not post the page and a half rant I had in Microsoft Word before I arrived at this verse. I did not begin by painting broad, sweeping generalizations all over my parenthood canvas – although that is exactly what I felt like doing when I put finger to key. I did not put down the very first thoughts that came into my head a month ago when I first toyed with the idea of delving into this most tenuous of subjects. I have been mulling them over, handing them back and forth to the Holy Spirit, asking why I felt like doing this. What am I trying to accomplish by writing one more (because, for real, they are everywhere) blog about raising children?

I am trying to get us to slow down and look up.

I don’t want you to follow your heart as you read this. Our hearts are sick and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). I don’t want you do feel bad or good about the job you’re doing as a parent. We have one standard by which we are to measure ourselves, it’s the will of God, not our feelings (Romans 12:2). I would like us, as parents, to think about what we are doing and be honest with ourselves about this work and how we should do it. We have one source of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6), let’s use it.

When people say, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” they got it wrong. Revelations 22:19 tells us we better not be taking things out of the Word of God, so if you’re going to quote the Bible, you better quote the whole thing. The verse says, “he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” This verse is about love.

How I parent my child should directly and accurately reflect how God parents His children. Let me repeat that. My behavior and, more importantly, my heart attitude as a parent should mirror God’s relationship as a Father with His children. Maybe you read that and thought, “Of course, it is.” This is a widely accepted truth among Christians, but, in my observation, not a widely applied truth.

I’ll give you an example. Parents often talk about the rewards of parenthood as the reasons why they do what they do. When a list of #realtruths about being a mother or father are laid out, they are usually followed by a statement that goes something along the lines of, “but it’s all worth it when they say I love you,” or, “when I see them succeed,” or, “when I feel like a good mom.” That last one is one of less commonly written-out-loud ones, but it’s often there between the lines. In reality, there is only one reason why God does what He does with us: Love.

There are children that are more difficult to parent than others. This is absolutely true. There are sometimes long stretches of time when you will not get any of the so-called “rewards” that make parenting worth it. There are moments when you cannot muster up enough warm-and-fuzzy feelings or feel-good-as-a-mom thoughts to propel yourself through the grueling fight for your child’s well-being.

Love, pure and unadulterated, is the only reason to do this and it’s the only way to get it done right. And I’m not talking about your finite, conditional love. I am talking about the love that flows directly from a personal relationship with God the Father through the Blood of Jesus Christ, ministered to your heart through the Holy Spirit. If you are not plugged into the source of infinite, eternal, whole love, then you and I are not talking about the same thing. True love has a Name, and it sure as heck is not Disney.

Almost all the mentions the Bible makes to parenting are in regards to either love or correction. Most of the time, the two are bound up as they are in this verse. It’s not as if you could misconstrue what God is saying here. To love is to correct. To correct is to love. To be a son is to be loved and corrected. To be a daughter is to be corrected because she is loved. God doesn’t correct us while he thinks about the perks or pros, i.e. because occasionally we say, “thank you,” or “I love you.” God disciplines those He loves.

For the LORD reproves him whom He loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:12 ESV

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. – Hebrews 12:6 ESV

I am not perfect. I get things wrong and I make mistakes. I am not writing from a place of, “Hey guys, since I got this parenting thing down, you should listen to me.” I am opening up the Word of God for an honest exploration of what it means to be a Godly parent. God sees my work here and He is the one who will give the final judgement on what I did – not my feelings, not my peers, and definitely not my child. This is not about self-righteousness or self-esteem. In fact, this is not about self at all. We do this for our children, yes, we do. But more important, we do this for God. These are His children and we are raising them for Him.

I challenge you today to find a few minutes and ask God to speak to you about His love. Ask Him to show you something new about how He loves you. Ask Him to give you more of His love. Remember, love is not a feeling, love is a lifestyle. (That is a whole other blog.) If you don’t yet believe in Jesus, I ask you to start there. Ask God to show you something about Who His Son, Yeshua (in Hebrew), is. Let us start in love.

God bless you, fellow builders. With God anything is possible.

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Service Requires Identity

I’ve been living in the Gospel of John for the last few weeks. I leave it playing on my phone during the day, I read it when I sit down with a spare minute, I’m even hearing my son start to walk around quoting pieces of it on occasion. I’ve been trying (because heavenly things can only be grasped in the Spirit) to immerse myself in His Truth. I want to better understand the Deity of Messiah – His love, His sacrifice, His humility, His adoption – I want to truly be planted in Him. There are many things that pierce my consciousness every time I hear them, but one in particular has been pulling at me lately.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Yeshua washing the disciples feet before instituting the last supper. I never noticed that this account is only given in the Gospel of John. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all address the disciples’ discussion of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. However, the act of Jesus washing their feet is only in John. It’s not this account, per say, that I get stuck on. It’s the sentence immediately preceding the short account.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. – John 13:3-4 ESV

Why does John say this before going on to tell what happened next? There are many accounts in the Gospels of Jesus doing things that were just not done. Talking to the “unclean,” and even touching them – not done. What happened? They were healed and made clean. Talking to women – not done. What happened? They were healed, saved from stoning, lifted from shame, and given the ability to believe. Getting up from a table, at which you are the honored Rabbi and Teacher, to take off your outer clothing, tie a towel around your waist and wash dirt off of your students’ feet – definitely not done. So why does John make a point of saying what Jesus knew before He did this?

Yeshua knew who He was. Yeshua’s identity was not based in what He did for people, what He said to people, or who people thought He was. He knew Who He was. John wrote this (by the leading to of the Holy Spirit) for our benefit. We need to understand as a people consumed with image, what people think, what people don’t think – we need to understand that our identity comes from one place: God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 ESV

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17

If I am a child of God, then I can do what God’s only begotten Son, Moshiach, whom I am to imitate, did. He was not afraid to lower or debase Himself in the midst of His disciples because it meant nothing to Him what they thought of Him. He knew Who He was.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. – John 13:6-8

Just a side note – I heart Peter. He makes me feel better about myself because, for as many people say they are Peter, I so am. Constantly jumping the gun with my mouth, making bold proclamations about what is right, what I think, what we should do – that is so me. I’m praying for God to move from pre-Holy Spirit Peter to post-Holy Spirit Peter. Another blog for another day.

If Peter could not accept Jesus as a servant who washed his feet, how would he ever accept Yeshua, the Suffering Servant Moshiach, Who would allow Himself to be cursed on a cross, hung on a tree, to bear the sins of the world? Peter and the disciples, people who were not used to being lifted up before others, thought that by standing with Jesus, expecting a reigning King who would obliterate the Romans at any moment, argued about who would be the greatest. Why? Because most of them were fisherman! They were not people of respect, not esteemed by their people, they did hard work and looked forward to being in the court of the King.

Paul, on the other hand, came from the feet of the Rabbi Gamaliel. He was all set up to be one of the most respected, paid-attention-to, everybody-listens-to-me leaders in the Jewish world. To be blinded, thrown off his horse and addressed by God, only to find out that he is persecuting the One who he professes to follow so zealously – his call was the embodiment of humiliation. He knew where he came from, he knew who he was and he knew who he served. His take on identity and service was very different than that of the quibbling disciples.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 4-11

Yeshua said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 ESV).  He said also, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

This is increasingly becoming my heart’s cry. Exactly what Paul, Shaul, said is how I feel. I want to know Yeshua HaMoshiach, Jesus Christ. I just want to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I realize that my position in His Kingdom becomes increasingly irrelevant when I realize who I already am in Him.

I am a daughter of God. I am a servant of the One true God.

Who are you?

Happy Birthday Frankenmama

God is speaking to me through the shredded fabric of my son’s bear’s nose.

The little bear, affectionately dubbed “mama,” became my son’s bedtime companion after he spontaneously decided that he no longer wanted his binky. It fell on the floor at the store, I gave him a new one when we got home and he had already resolved to be done with binkies forever. He refused it and all other binkies after that day. It was shocking because he was “that kid” who ALWAYS had his binky in his mouth. I had no idea how I would ever get it away from him. A couple days after he  was all-done-binky, he got sick for the first time. He was inconsolable and without any means of coping. Then, I got the idea to give him the little bear. It was love at first bite. He started chewing the bear instead of the binky and refused all teethers. After about a month, I told my mom how attached he had become to the “mama”, to which she responded, “how many mamas do you have?” I proceeded to buy three of the now discontinued bears.

I tried to save the mamas and cycle through them evenly, but once teeth started coming in, their little organic cotton noses didn’t stand a chance. About three months ago, I started having to mend them every time they got washed. We cycle through a mama at least every other day, sometimes two or three per day, depending on the day’s disasters. You can imagine what the mamas must have started looking like. In case you can’t, here’s an idea…

frankenmamas - gittel fruma

Progression of the mamas from sheet-nose to frankenmama

The one on the left had been mended with fabric from a sheet. The one on the left had started losing cotton through the hole in its nose and reminded me of a very sad bear-pug. My son likes to pinch the thread on their noses, but also has a sensitive gag reflex, so every time he got the thread too far into his throat, he would gag. He would then come over and ask me to “fix mama” repeatedly, which usually resulted in some stitching or scissoring or something to temporarily rid mama of the unseemly thread. About ten minutes later, we would repeat this process. I realize this seems like really useless information, but that brings me to this morning.

I gave up on the “noses made of sheet” idea. The fabric just rips too easily and I don’t always have time to mend them before some crisis necessitates the immediate presence of a freshly-washed mama. I decided to rip one mama’s sheet nose off and try re-stuffing the actual nose with the sheet. I felt slightly creeped out by slicing the mama’s actual nose open, but it was necessary. As I sat there, using the point of my fabric scissors to stuff pieces of sheet inside the mama’s nose, I started thinking about the daily lengths I go to for my son. Here I was, sewing the first of four mamas that would need this procedure, thinking about how best to get the job done in an aesthetically pleasing way (pretty sure I failed…) so that my son would be happy with a nose well-sewed. I have spent countless hours chasing after lost mamas, darning their noses, cutting pieces off of them as they unravel and searching for new ones on the internet. Why the slight obsession with the mamas? Because I want my son to feel comforted, happy and secure.

Even through my best efforts, I will never be able to give my son what God can give him. I look at the badly stitched, blue-threaded nose of the mama and I think to myself, “this is so clearly my work.” There are times in life when we just need to commit our works to God and say, “Amen.” I will continue to give my best to my son. He is a blessing from the Lord and I love him more with each passing day. And yet, I will never be able to love him as much as God loves him. As I waited to meet him for nine months, God carefully crafted him inside my womb, down to the last hair that would someday be on his head. He loves him more than I’ll ever know or understand. He loves all of us that way. He desires to work in our lives in a deep and meaningful way. The Holy Spirit wishes to have a relationship with each of us. He leaves nothing incomplete. He restores everything. He shapes us into the people He meant for us to be. As much as we let Him, He will transform our lives. There is nothing that He cannot do. He wills for us all things for our good. If God had mended the mama, she would have glowed upon leaving His gentle touch.

While I am here, laboring for the cause of my Messiah, I pray that I would be found faithful in those things entrusted into my hand. Surely, my children will be the most precious things given to me to care for. My husband, my children, my sisters, my parents, my family in Christ, and all of those with whom God knits me together should be the constant recipients of my wisdom and kindness. I will invest all I have to give into the Kingdom of God and I hope to be a light in the darkness all of my days.

But my efforts alone will never be enough because they were never meant to be. I thank God that He sent His Son to be the sacrifice for my sins, and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be my constant comforter on earth. I can’t do it by myself. I can’t live up to my own standards, let alone those of the One, Holy and Sovereign God. Someday, all things will be made new again and all things broken will be made beautiful. In the mean time, I thank God for the work He does in our lives as we commit our paths to Him. This is the most important lesson I can teach my little son. When all else fails, including the nose of your mama, God will always be there for you. Happy birthday, mama. May your nose be ever-intact.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His Presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11