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.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/child-rose-flower-red-smel-1152068/

I think I might be a cranberry…

So, after my last post regarding pride, I found it very difficult to write. I felt like anything I shared would be pompous and ridiculous… possibly self-righteous. The result = nothing for the last two months. However, upon cooking a late pot of cranberry sauce (for the first time), I had a revelation. I think I might be a cranberry.
“What’s that you say, crazy lady?” I know, I know. But really. Here’s how I reached this stunning conclusion…
I read the package for the cranberries, which included a simple recipe for cranberry sauce. We are nearing Chanukah and the time for Thanksgiving recipes is past, but I impulsively bought this bag of cranberries and I needed to use them before they went bad. There’s no time like the present, so let’s make some cranberry sauce! The recipe said to let the berries simmer until they start to pop. I thought, “Ok, popping sounds fun.” Sure enough, no sooner did my overly ripe cranberries hit the simmering pot of freshly squeezed orange juice, wild honey, cardamom and clove (you should know I cannot follow a recipe to save my life – always have to make it interesting!) they started a-burstin’. Then it hit me: “OMG, a cranberry I am.”
Before I sat down to write this post, I thought about what I should write. I thought about what’s been rattling around my head the last few months, what have I been doing with myself, where have all my missing neurons flown to… The one thing that I kept coming back to was a recent interaction I had with someone very close to me. It started off as passive aggression, led to a huge screaming match (thank God, they are a rare occasion in my life), then a quiet, humbling conversation. At the end of everything, I felt hurt, vulnerable and exposed. There I was, in the simmering saucepan of life, under pressure and overheated, and I finally popped. I lost it. I felt myself unwittingly leaking all over the place – emotions, thoughts, half-finished sentences, tears, possibly snot – and I felt horribly bare. This conversation has haunted me for the last several weeks. I find myself thinking about it when I’m washing dishes, I have strange dreams about this person, I keep thinking that I want to pull away and protect myself.
It’s not an easy thing to live among people. We are broken, hurtful, and self-centered. But God is love. Yeshua set very high standards for what a community should look like. It didn’t look like a “hi, how are you doing?” on Sunday. It didn’t involve limp handshakes at Thursday night Bible study. It didn’t include selfish self-preservation or entitled attitudes of injury. Messiah called us to Grace and Love.
I am a cranberry. This person is my fellow cranberry. Together we live in a simmering pot. This could be the most idiotic metaphor for my life I have ever thought of, or it could be the beginning of a new understanding of my life in Yeshua. Now that I have popped and this person has popped as well, here we are with our proverbial cranberry guts spilled out in glorious and sweet fellowship. We can’t separate ourselves anymore. We might as well give in to the fact that we will eventually be one. I can’t put myself back together or separate myself from this person because I am not supposed to do either. No one ever did anything in the power of the Holy Spirit by “having it together.” Fake-it-till-you-make-it was not a mandate of God. It is, however, how the majority of us make it through our lives, especially in regards to our relationships.
I am good at being on my own. There was a time when I prided myself on my ability to need no one. Then I let someone in. And someone else. And someone else after that. The more I have opened my heart, the more there is inside. It’s a cliche that’s often repeated and rarely understood. You have to give love to get love.
I don’t love this person because they’re perfect. I don’t love them because they’re always right or always nice. I don’t even love them because they love me. I love this person because I can’t help myself. And I hope the help never comes.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8 ESV